THE TASMANIAN government is commissioning an inquiry into Bass Island Line’s pricing policies.

Tasmanian treasurer Michael Ferguson said the shipping line’s freight volumes have doubled since changes were made to the service in March this year, when BIL transitioned to a weekly service between King Island and Devonport.

He said BIL is providing a reliable service to King Island, but acknowledged “ongoing concern” among King Island residents about high retail prices on the island in comparison with mainland Tasmania.

Mr Ferguson said he intends to commission an independent inquiry into matters around BIL’s pricing policies under the Economic Regulator Act 2009.

“Recognising the importance of establishing confidence in the Bass Island Line service, it is considered that an inquiry into matters affecting the company’s pricing policies would assist in addressing concerns with regard to its role in the market,” Mr Ferguson said.

“After more than five years operating in a competitive, commercial market, with both positive and negative feedback circulating, it is timely that a Prescribed Bodies Inquiry is held into Bass Island Line pricing policies.”

Mr Ferguson said the government believes current pricing policies should be tested in an independent and objective manner.

“An independent inquiry will allow prices and costs to be examined at arm’s length from Bass Island Line, its parent company TasPorts and the government,” he said.

“The inquiry’s findings will inform future planning for King Island shipping services.”

TasPorts CEO Anthony Donald welcomed the opportunity to work with the Economic Regulator to demonstrate the TasPorts is delivering the shipping service within a sound pricing policy framework.

“As a state-owned company with a commercial focus, TasPorts’ role is to facilitate trade for the benefit of Tasmanians,” he said.

“We await the terms of reference to better understand how we can engage with the Economic Regulator.

“In the meantime, BIL remains committed to providing a financially sustainable shipping service in a competitive market, which meets the needs of the King Island community, and will continue to work with customer and stakeholders to deliver that.”