MSC to make Bass Strait service calls to Bell Bay

Swire Shipping gets rival for formerly unloved Tasmanian port

MSC to make Bass Strait service calls to Bell Bay
MSC will include Bell Bay in a regional loop.

Tasmanian truck traffic to Bell Bay looks more certain than ever to increase and now there could be a choice of whose ships their cargo is destined for.

In a surprise move, international container shipping line MSC appears to have put pressure on China Navigation Company’s subsidiary, Swire Shipping, announcing a fortnightly, though non-direct, service.

The first Bell Bay call is on February 24.

This could increase to a weekly service if demand dictates, MSC indicates, and the news comes as Swire has plans to start its direct fortnightly service to Asian ports this year.

"This initiative is in line with our strategic objective to continue to improve our services, giving wider regional port coverage to our valued customers," MSC says.

"The addition of Bell Bay will coincide with our previously announced Trans-Tasman service changes to take effect from February 2015.

"Port rotation will be: Melbourne – Bell Bay - Sydney – Brisbane – Noumea – Tauranga –Auckland.

"This service will be solely operated by MSC with three vessels – and will offer Tasmanian clients a fortnightly service for both exports and imports, providing a through Bill of Lading and connecting Tasmania with the MSC global network."

The news is music to the ears of State infrastructure minister Rene Hidding, who has championed Bell Bay as a container port despite market scepticism.

"The Liberal Government welcomes the vote of confidence in the Tasmanian economy, and the added competition on Bass Strait, that the MSC announcement today represents," Hidding says.

"It is important to note that while more competition on Bass Strait is definitely good news for Tasmanian businesses, this service is not a direct shipping link to Asian ports; it is a different service.

"The Government remains focused on delivering its election commitment to reintroduce a direct shipping service to Asia and find a solution to the high-cost of international shipping in Tasmania.

"We are working towards this aim with Swire Shipping under an MOU.

"It is for Swire to make their commercial decisions based on the level of market take-up they can achieve."

ATN was awaiting Swire Shipping’s response at deadline today.

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