King Island to get emergency logistics links


Six point state government plan to tackle troubled freight service

King Island to get emergency logistics links
Rene Hidding says his government is committed to ensuring the continuity of the sea freight link

 

Tasmania’s chronic difficulties in servicing its Bass Strait islands’ freight needs has taken a new turn with state infrastructure minister Rene Hidding releasing details of a "six point action plan for King Island".

Formed and implemented by state ports authority TasPorts’ ship-owning subsidiary Bass Island Line (BIL), it comes in response to the lack of a suitable ship in the sale of the Searoad Mersey and the replacement Searoad Mersey II reportedly being too big to fit in the island’s small port.

The initial stop-gap vessel, the Enterprise, was greeted with scepticism when was announced in February, given its small size and open deck were deemed to make it vulnerable in heavy weather common to Bass Strait.

Concern and dissatisfaction about what continues to be services that are crucial for island communities but economically marginal have risen recently on King Island, which has a greater relative demand.

Now 47 containers of fertiliser amongst other cargo on both sides of the strait are awaiting transport.

"On Tuesday, I asked TasPorts to complete an assessment of current demand and supply capability for fertiliser supplies to the Island within 48 hours," Hidding, who has been under pressure over the issue, announces.

"That assessment is now complete and subject to further refinement of the fertiliser customers’ forecasts, TasPorts advises me there is a balance of an additional 47 containers that may require shipping over the next four weeks.

"Bass Island Line, a wholly owned subsidiary of TasPorts, is initiating a six point Action Plan to tackle the current shipping needs on King Island.

"This Action Plan will ensure that Bass Island Line can meet King Island’s fertiliser needs in time for the seasonal break.

"The Action Plan includes a short-term charter of a private vessel to ensure the fertiliser and other essential goods are delivered to the island.

The plan involves:

  • securing additional freight capacity - Eastern Line has agreed to provide additional sailings of the Statesman over the upcoming weeks on an as required basis
  • creating an additional northbound sailing of the Investigator II for heavy containers next week, meaning there will be three sailings with fertiliser next week following the three sailings this week
  • implementing a number of technical solutions on the Investigator II that will see its tonnage capacity increase by 20 per cent. It will have a capacity of 600 tonnes from next week
  • continuing efforts to urgently source a larger vessel to replace the temporary Investigator II
  • encouraging all King Island customers to book their freight to ensure it is shipped on time
  • committing to King Island stakeholders to provide a weekly update on the operations of BIL.

"As previously stated, Bass Island Lines has capacity to meet all known demand for cargo to King Island, including fertiliser. I note the commitment of additional shipping capacity has been "customary at times of peak demand such as this," Hidding adds.

"The government remains absolutely committed to supporting the King Island community and its farmers through ensuring the continuity of the sea freight link."

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