TASMANIAN Premier Peter Gutwein has used state parliament to canvass the option of having the Spirit of Tasmania vessels dock at Geelong rather than Station Pier in Melbourne.
The state-owned TT-Line, which operates the vessels, is currently in negotiations with the Victorian Ports Corporation over the terms of a new lease beyond 2022.
Mr Gutwein was asked in parliament by Labor MP David O’Byrne (a former infrastructure minister) if Geelong was being considered.
According to the ABC, Mr Gutwein did not deny Geelong was being examined as an alternative, due to what he said was “price gouging” by the operators.
“It is very, very important we have a cost-effective dock,” Mr Gutwein told parliament.
“[The operators of Station Pier] want to price gouge. They are looking to take every last cent they possibly can from Tasmanian businesses and customers.”
Victorian Ports Corporation CEO Rachel Johnson confirmed “the Victorian Ports Corporation has been negotiating a new lease with TT-Line and discussions are ongoing”.
“We’ve been working with TT-Line on an efficient infrastructure solution to accommodate its new ferries when they are delivered into service,” Ms Johnson said.
“Nearly half a million people travel on the Spirit of Tasmania each year and we look forward to continue working with them to ensure the interests of both Victorians and Tasmanians.”
Some state Labor MPs raised concerns that Geelong would be inconvenient compared with Melbourne and Station Pier.
GeelongPort CEO Brett Winter said they were “aware that TT Line is negotiating its Victorian port lease arrangements”. “GeelongPort is strategically well placed to support both tourism and freight objectives and we would welcome the opportunity to work with TT Line and the Tasmanian Government on long term solutions for their ferry service,” Mr Winter said.
TT-Line chairman Mike Grainger told ABC Tasmania the move to Geelong would provide the company with “a unique opportunity to enhance the passenger experience”.
“[It will] provide room to expand our freight offering in line with the demand for many years to come,” Mr Grainer was quoted as saying.
DCN reported comments from Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein earlier in the year accusing the the operators of Station Pier of price gouging.