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Tasmania’s Stories

$700m Bass Strait Ferries Coup

Edition 194_GraingerFuchsTT

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.

Tourism Industry Council Tasmania CEO, Luke Martin hails their advent as “the biggest leap forward for tourism since MONA".

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

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Facts about Tasmania


Tasmania is the southernmost state of Australia, located at latitude 40° south and longitude 144° east and separated from the continent by Bass Strait. It is a group of 334 islands, with the main island being 315 km (180 miles) from west to east and 286 km (175 miles) north to south.


Tasmanians are resourceful and innovative people, committed to a continually expanding export sector. In 2012–13, international exports from the state totalled $3.04 billion. USA, China, Taiwan, India, Japan and other Asian countries account for the bulk of exports, with goods and services also exported to Europe and many other regions.


Tasmania is similar in size to the Republic of Ireland or Sri Lanka. The Tasmanian islands have a combined coastline of more than 3,000 km.


The main island has a land area of 62,409 sq km (24,096 sq miles) and the minor islands, taken together, total only 6 per cent of the main island’s land area. The biggest islands are Flinders (1,374 sq km/539 sq miles), King, Cape Barren, Bruny and Macquarie Islands.


About 250km (150 miles) separates Tasmania’s main island from continental Australia. The Kent Group of Islands, one of the most northerly parts of the state, is only 55km (34 miles) from the coast of the Australian continent.


Twice named ‘Best Temperate Island in the World’ by international travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler, Tasmania has a mild, temperate maritime climate, with four distinct seasons.


In summer (December to February) the average maximum temperature is 21° Celsius (70° Fahrenheit). In winter (June to August) the average maximum is 12° C (52° F) and the average minimum is 4° C (40° F). Snow often falls in the highlands, but is rarely experienced in more settled areas.

Annual Rainfall

Tasmania’s west coast is one of the wettest places in the world, but the eastern part of the State lives in a rain-shadow. Hobart, the second-driest capital city in Australia, receives about half as much rain as Sydney.

Annual Rainfall

Annual rainfall in the west is 2,400 mm (95 inches), but hardy locals insist there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing. If you travel 120 km east to Hobart, you experience a much drier average of 626 mm (24 inches) a year.


The 512,875-strong community spreads itself across the land; less urbanised than the population of any other Australian state. Hobart, the capital city, is home to more than 212,000 people.

Capital City

Hobart nestles at the foot of kunanyi / Mount Wellington (1,270 m / 4,000 ft) and overlooks the Derwent Estuary, where pods of dolphins and migrating whales are sometimes seen from nearby beaches. Surrounded by thickly forested rolling hills, the city is home to the state parliament and the main campus of the University of Tasmania.

Capital City

Its historic centre features Georgian and Regency buildings from colonial times. Hobart is home port for coastal fishing boats, Antarctic expeditions and vessels that fish the Southern Ocean.

Land Formation

Mountain ranges in the south-west date back 1,000 million years. Ancient sediments were deeply buried, folded and heated under enormous pressure to form schists and glistening white quartzites.

Land Formation

In the south-west and central highlands, dolerite caps many mountains, including Precipitous Bluff and Tasmania’s highest peak, Mt Ossa (1617 m / 5300 ft). More than 42 per cent of Tasmania is World Heritage Area, national park and marine or forest reserves.


Vegetation is diverse, from alpine heathlands and tall open eucalypt forests to areas of temperate rainforests and moorlands, known as buttongrass plains. Many plants are unique to Tasmania and the ancestors of some species grew on the ancient super-continent, Gondwana, before it broke up 50 million years ago.


Unique native conifers include slow-growing Huon pines, with one specimen on Mt Read estimated to be up to 10,000 years old. Lomatia tasmanica, commonly known as King’s holly, is a self-cloning shrub that may well be the oldest living organism on earth. It was discovered in 1937.


Tasmania is the last refuge of several mammals that once roamed the Australian continent. It is the only place to see a Tasmanian devil or eastern quoll (native cat) in the wild and is the best place to see the spotted-tailed quoll (tiger cat), all carnivorous marsupials.


The eastern bettong and the Tasmanian pademelon, both now extinct on the Australian continent, may also be observed.


The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, was Australia’s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial and is a modern day mystery. The last documented thylacine died in captivity in 1936 and although the animal is considered extinct, unsubstantiated sightings persist.

History and Heritage

Aboriginal people have lived in Tasmania for about 35,000 years, since well before the last Ice Age. They were isolated from the Australian continent about 12,000 years ago, when the seas rose to flood low coastal plains and form Bass Strait.

History and Heritage

Descendants of the original people are part of modern Tasmania’s predominantly Anglo-Celtic population.

History and Heritage

Tasmania was originally named Van Dieman’s Land by the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1642. The island was settled by the British as a penal colony in 1803 and the original name was associated with the convict era. It was changed to Tasmania when convict transportation stopped in 1853.


A resourceful island culture has generated leading-edge niche industries, from production of high-speed catamaran ferries and marine equipment to lightning-protection technology.


Tasmanians produce winches and windlasses for some of the world’s biggest ocean-going pleasure craft; large-scale inflatable evacuation systems and provide specialist outfit-accommodation services to the marine industry.


The Wooden Boat Centre at Shipwrights Point has re-established the skills and traditions of another age and attracts students from around the world.


Tasmania is a world leader in natural turf systems for major sporting arenas and in areas of mining technology and environmental management. Its aquaculture industry has developed ground-breaking fish-feeding technology and new packaging.


Tasmanians sell communications equipment to many navies and their world-class fine timber designers and craftsmen take orders internationally for furniture made from distinctive local timber.


The state is a natural larder with clean air, unpolluted water and rich soils inviting the production of 100 varieties of specialty cheeses, as well as other dairy products, mouth-watering rock lobsters, oysters, scallops and abalone, Atlantic salmon, beef, premium beers, leatherwood honey, mineral waters, fine chocolates, fresh berry fruits, apples and crisp vegetables.


Tasmania is a producer of award-winning cool-climate wines, beers, ciders and whiskies. Other export products include essential oils such as lavender, pharmaceutical products and premium wool sought after in Europe and Asia. Hobart is a vital gateway to the Antarctic and a centre for Southern Ocean and polar research.


The industries in Tasmania which made the greatest contribution to the State’s gross product in 2010–11 in volume terms were: Manufacturing (9.4%), Health care and social assistance (8.2%), Financial and insurance services (7.2%), Ownership of dwellings and Agriculture, forestry and fishing (each 7.1%).

Getting to Tasmania

Travel is easy, whether by air from Sydney or Melbourne, or by sea, with daily sailings of the twin ferries Spirit of Tasmania 1 and 2 each way between Melbourne and Devonport throughout the year.

This site has been produced by the Brand Tasmania Council © 2014

Brand Tasmania

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