SHIPPING companies have expressed confidence in trans-Bass Strait trade by investing in new ships and infrastructure to service route between Tasmania and the mainland.
SeaRoad brought its German-built Mersey II into service almost two years ago and plans to introduce a similar ship in the next two years. Toll Group, meanwhile, also has made public plans to bring new ships into the market as early as this year, replacing its older vessels.
This is on top of plans by state government-owned TT-Line to replace the Spirit of Tasmania vessels and one can see how the Strait is being transformed.
SeaRoad’s Chas Kelly told Daily Cargo News the aim was to have the second of its new ships on Bass Strait around December 2019 and that it probably would be “a little bit longer and a little bit beamier” than Mersey II.
Pat Guarino of SeaRoad and Mark Bergamasco of Toll recently spoke at the Tasmanian Freight and Logistics Forum in Launceston. Mr Guarino said SeaRoad saw a prosperous future on Bass Strait.
“Investment will be complemented by a new vessel, internal infrastructure and equipment,” he said. “We consciously look at terminal infrastructure to improve efficiencies and freight availabilities.”
Mr Guarino said cargo growth was led by an increase in retail in Tasmania combined with demand for the state’s agricultural products.
“Recent expansion in the salmon industry and investment in fruit and berries are examples of growth,” he said.
“Severe climate events, droughts and floods on mainland Australia enhance the need for Tasmanian agriculture.”
He noted government infrastructure spending and construction activity was contributing to growth.
“So the outlook for Bass Strait shipping remains solid. Growth [in volume] is predicted between 2% and 5%,” he said.
“We are predicting market growth will continue at this rate for the short to medium term, right through to 2030.”
The ship’s bell Tolls
Almost two years ago Toll announced a $170m investment to support Bass Strait trade in the form of two new ships.
The new ships, which are being built at the at the Jinling Shipyard in China, are set to carry 700 TEU (the current ships handle 480 TEU) and can carry more refrigerated freight, important for a state that does well from farming.
The new vessels are to come online later this year and will operate overnight services six days a week, replacing Toll’s existing ships (the Tasmanian Achiever and Victorian Reliance).
Toll’s Mark Bergamasco said the new vessels were not the only form of capital investment in the Tasmanian context.
“We have $311m capex going into the Tasmanian market. Infrastructure around the vessels and wharf upgrades and terminal access has been challenging.”
Toll Group managing director Michael Byrne said the investment to boost Bass Strait trade was well underway.
“The investment includes $170m to build two new ships and $141m to upgrade terminals, wharves and berthing facilities in Melbourne and Burnie.
“This is the largest-ever investment by a logistics business in the Bass Strait, and underpins Toll’s commitment to the Australian domestic market and the Bass Strait trade,” Mr Byrne said.
“Bolstering our carrying capacity means we can support the Tasmanian exports boom driven by demand from Australian and Asian markets.”
Toll’s new ships and facility upgrades are expected to provide more capacity to transport goods, delivering:
- 40% more capacity for containers and trailers, with later cut-off times and earlier receivals;
- Increased capability and capacity to handle refrigerated freight; and
- Faster turnaround times for customers due to terminal upgrades at McGaw Wharf and Webb Dock.
A word from the ports Matthew Johnston is executive general manager marine services for TasPorts, the entity charged with managing ports and port infrastructure around the state.
Speaking at the Forum, Mr Johnston described the way the regulator was supporting shipping companies and bigger ships by way of infrastructure.
“At the end of the day, our role is to work with all the shipping companies to ensure we’re supporting them by way of ports, infrastructure, and obviously waterway capability,” Mr Johnston said.
“It is a pretty exciting time on the landscape with what is being done with the increase in tonnage.
“TT-Line have also gone down the path of investing in increased tonnage.
“That means we have to work with all of those players to ensure that we’ve got the landside facilities to support these larger vessels. The most imminent is Toll with what’s happening in Burnie.”
Mr Johnston said they were working closely with Toll Group, particularly in relation to the assistance with a new ramp and dredging.
“There’s quite a bit of dredging that will need to be done in order to support the deeper draught ships and that flows on to the other companies,” he said.
Mr Johnston indicated TasPorts had an eye to the bigger picture.
“We have been doing a lot of work on our port masterplan which is a state-wide approach to what the ports will look like going forward,” he said.
Burnie and Devonport have been identified as major capital investment locations for the future.
“Tasports in recent years has been on averaging investing from an operational point of view about $15m to $20m a year and capital improvements about the same number,” he said.
The minister speaks
The Tasmanian government is keen to leverage the benefits of larger ships on Bass Strait with an efficient freight corridor between Burnie and the state’s largest city, Hobart, in the south.
It was a topic taken up during the Forum by Deputy Premier and infrastructure minister Jeremy Rockliff.
“Our road system in the land freight network is a key driver of the Tasmanian economy. The land freight network is extensive and provides a high-level of freight accessibility to businesses.
“We are particularly focused on developing the Burnie to Hobart corridor as Tasmania’s premier freight corridor, connecting all major population and industrial export centres,” he said.
“This corridor supports the movement of high volumes of freight in the forms of part of nearly every major industry supply chain in the state with around two thirds of the freight in Tasmania travelling along this route as part of its journey.”
Mr Rockliff said the corridor was already part of the Australian government’s National Land Transport Network and was also listed as a priority for Infrastructure Australia.
This article appeared in the August edition of DCN Magazine