Hidding backs freight strategy to handle export capacity


Tasmania ferry future reignites rural exporters’ unease at policy direction for growth

Hidding backs freight strategy to handle export capacity
Rene Hidding is confident of policy settings

 

Tasmanian infrastructure minister Rene Hidding has defended his government’s export freight policy in the face of fresh food shipper concerns on the future of TT-Line capacity.

Hidding has had to contend with scepticism over efforts to cement a direct international shipping link that came to fruition in November with Singapore’s Swire Shipping announced as an expected signatory to a memorandum of understanding for the service this year.

The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA) and Fruit Growers Tasmania (FGA) are seeking clarity on future TT-Line capacity given that its present fleet of two Spirit of Tasmania ships is due to be upgraded at a time when fruit growers have expansion plans.

The TFGA was one of five groups that in November backed a freight subsidy extension over the State government’s $33 million direct shipping plan.

Fresh food exporters see ferry space under pressure as time-sensitive exports coincide with high tourist demand.

"Under the new business model, there will be a significant increase in freight capacity on the Spirits with 42 more day sailings scheduled over the 2015/2016 peak and shoulder seasons," Hidding says.

"In addition, the commercial freight companies that service Bass Strait have already announced plans to significantly increase freight capacity."

While Hidding insists there will be no reduction in freight space on ferries, rural exporters say a longer-term strategy is needed to handle growth and meet a spread of international sailing schedules.

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