Hidding set to shake-up Tasmanian ports strategy


New Infrastructure Minister’s direct shipping pledge sees State’s port and export policies set for change

Hidding set to shake-up Tasmanian ports strategy
Rene Hidding, the new Minister for Infrastructure

 

New Premier Will Hodgman has appointed one-time Liberal opposition leader Rene Hidding to head Tasmania’s infrastructure portfolio, which covers freight transport issues.

In reducing portfolios from 31 to 24, Hodgman has ensured Hidding will have other responsibilities.

Hidding "will take on the role of rebuilding our police service, as Minister for Police and Emergency Management" Hodgman says.

"He will also be Minister for Infrastructure, with shareholder responsibility for a number of key government enterprises including the TT-Line; and he will oversee the creation of our new independent advisory body, Infrastructure Tasmania."

Hidding can be expected to lead a push to subsidise a regular international container shipping link to East Asian ports, the Liberals having pledged to spend $33 million over three years to secure such a service.

As shadow minister for primary industries and water, Hidding was critical last year of the previous government’s Tasmanian Freight Package, which focused on Bass Strait services.

The Liberal’s ascent to power puts a change in Tasmania’s ports strategy on the agenda.

After the international ship calls at Bell Bay ended, the previous government shifted the container export focus to the Bass Strait ro-ro links with the port of Melbourne, particularly from Devonport but with increasing interest in Burnie.

Last year’s Freight Logistics Co-ordination Team report identified Burnie as the best long-term option for the state’s major freight port in findings that were not universally supported.

The port does host a monthly breakbulk service through Swire Shipping but Hidding insists that it is "does not address the broader international freight task".

Just before the election, then- premier Lara Giddings had pinned her international shipping link hopes on bolstered Swire services focused on the port and negotiations had started with the company with a view to starting it in the second half of the calendar year.

The reintroduction of regular international calls would likely mean a shift back to an earlier strategy focusing on the suitability of certain ports for certain trades.

With state exporters continuing to lament the loss of direct shipping, while feeling the extra expense of increasing Melbourne costs, and Hidding quoted as saying "only the Liberals believe in a future for Bell Bay", the chances of port’s fortunes reviving have never looked better.

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