$700m Bass Strait Ferries Coup
A landmark $700 million deal has been signed for two new Bass Strait ferries in Tasmania’s ‘biggest ever infrastructure investment’.
The custom-built vessels will replace the iconic red-and-white Spirits of Tasmania on the Bass Strait run from 2021.
German ship-building giant Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft has been contracted by TT-Line to deliver the new twin ferries which will each cost $350 million.
Construction will begin immediately.
TT-Line chairman Mike Grainger said: “The Board is pleased with the final terms of the contract, as negotiated between the parties since signing the letter of intent last year.”
He added that the company had “exhaustively assessed vessel types and fleet configurations to determine the most suitable vessels to operate daily crossings on Bass Strait".
The soon-to-be retired 20-year-old twin ships, Spirits of Tasmania I and II, have clocked around 6,000 daily Bass Strait crossings since being purchased second-hand in 2002.
Catering to unprecedented demand, the new 212 metre vessels are 30 per cent larger and able to accommodate 1,800 passengers and 600 passenger vehicles as well as increased freight volumes.
This all amounts to an extra 35 per cent capacity over both passenger numbers and freight.
A big boost for our tourism industry and exporters according to Premier Will Hodgman who also called it the state’s biggest infrastructure deal.
“Every single sailing of the next generation Spirits will be able to bring an additional 500 visitors, 115 additional passenger vehicles and 85 additional freight trailers,” Mr Hodgman added.
The Premier also pointed out Bass Strait passenger numbers have increased by 31 per cent over the past four years, and freight volumes have reached record levels with exporters and primary producers favouring the Spirits “last to leave, first to arrive” service.
The excitement around the arrival of these new twin Ferries cannot be overemphasised.
He said the hundreds of extra passenger landings at Devonport each day would “turbo charge” regional tourism, adding that the current ships have served Tasmania remarkably well, but they are at capacity over the summer months.
“The next generation Spirits will stimulate visitation into regional Tasmania and lift the shackles off visitor growth into northern Tasmania,” Mr Martin said.
While tourism is a direct beneficiary, so too are Tasmania’s producers and exporters who rely on a speedy and reliable service to move freight across Bass Strait. Extra freight capacity will also have a direct flow-on for economic growth.
“It’s a game-changer,” are the words chosen by TT-Line CEO Bernard Dwyer.
“The knock-on effect is about getting investment in Tasmania to grow, and to do that we need to be able to get produce off the island, and bring goods in.”
Currently 51,000 trailers of freight are shipped in and out of the state every year, and Mr Dwyer said he is keen to see capacity grow on all three services: SeaRoad and Toll as well as TT-Line.
“The capacity on Bass Strait has been an artificial choke on investment in the state, and once this is released investment will grow,” Mr Dwyer said.
These sentiments are backed up by one of TT-Line’s biggest freight customers, SRT Logistics, which moves 150 trailers of cold storage across Bass strait every week on its trucks – around 70 to 80 per cent of that on the Spirit of Tasmania.
“Each day for the last three years we have taken up the maximum space available and we would rapidly take up any extra capacity on offer,” SRT CEO Robert Miller said.
“Having this greater freight capacity will help future proof both our business and Tasmania.”
Fourth generation orchardist Howard Hansen agrees. He is one of the State’s biggest cherry and apple growers and calls the new ferries “music to my ears".
Hansen Orchards has been hampered by capacity constraints, especially over the summer peak period, leading to delays in getting valuable produce out to markets both interstate and overseas.
“We are obviously excited that TT-Line is increasing freight capacity with these new ferries,” Mr Hansen said.
TT-Line said the construction of the new ferries, will be funded from its own cash reserves and borrowings.
And as excitement builds among stakeholders ahead the new twin arrivals, one question remains unanswered.
Will these impressive custom-built ferries take on that iconic red and white livery so instantly recognisable as Spirits I and II? And will they retain the name? These are issues still to be decided.
Image courtesy of TT-Line
7 May 2018, Edition 194