King Island weighs options after workshop

Beef producers assess supply chain issues around the transport of cattle from King Island following the closure of their local JBS abbatoir

King Island weighs options after workshop
King Island assesses its supply chain

By Anna Game-Lopata | September 25, 2012

Beef producers say they are assessing the options for the transport of live cattle from King Island following the closure of their local JBS abbatoir.

As SupplyChain Revew reported last week a workshop for stakeholders was held last Friday to identify the key issues, particularly relating to the upcoming peak season.

Facilitated by the Tasmanian government, the workshop was attended by TasPorts, transport companies, producers, the council and local commerce, the island’s shipping company SeaRoad and other affected parties.

King Island Beef Producers Group Logistics spokesperson Robbie Payne says the key outcome of the workshop was a better understanding of the total supply chain management task.

In addition, producers posed questions to TasPorts, government representatives and transporters about how the transport task can be streamlined to prevent protracted waiting times.

"To retain the MSA compliance King Island beef is famous for, cattle must be slaughtered within 24 hours of despatch," Payne explains.

"Producers are now waiting on responses about port compliance and processes, costs of and requirements for the unloading of the trailers and whether there could be flexibility in terms of the timing around this."

But the key hurdle is how producers will get the cattle off King Island in the short term.

The abattoir processed about 800 head of cattle a week, which will translate to about 700-1,000 head of live cattle to be transported to the Tasmanian mainland.

The island’s sole shipper, SeaRoad Shipping, which currently makes a weekly trip to King Island’s Port Grassy has a capacity for just
16-18 trailer loads of live cattle, which will not cover the task during peak season.

In addition, SeaRoad plans to replace its current vessel with larger ones of a size unable to dock at King Island’s port. While this development is at least two years away, King Island producers have been planning their options.

Payne says one suggestion being discussed is for Greenham abattoir on Tasmania’s north-west coast, already a planned recipient of the King Island
livestock, to
offer a vessel capable of
providing ongoing compliance for the MSA-accredited cattle.

The Greenham abattoir’s vessel has a capacity of up to
300 head of cattle which it could ship from King Island directly to Stanley.

Another option on the table involves the use of a Feurneux Freight vessel from Flinders Island.

"We have approached Furneaux Freight, but there are still issues to iron out in terms of costs and efficiencies," Payne says.

"Large volumes and distances are required to make the shipping of livestock cost-effective, which King Island currently can’t offer.

"We have to look at all facets of our long held processes, especially shipping, to improve efficiency as much as possible."

With Peak season starting in
January and reaching its heights around April, Payne says he believes an interim solution can be reached but holds grave doubts about the future
of conducting the
business as was it previously known.

"We’d be interested in any advice from coastal shipping experts who could offer suggestions or support," he says.

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