TASPORTS suspended commercial shipping operations at the Port of Devonport at 1130 on Thursday (13 October) due to the risk of flooding of the Mersey River catchment zone.

The direction to suspend operations at the port was made by the Tasmanian harbour master, given severe weather warnings issued by the Bureau of Meteorology and modelling advice that predicts severe flooding conditions.

TasPorts chief operating officer Stephen Casey said the company’s priority was the safety of port users, vessels and port infrastructure.

“The bureau is forecasting conditions similar to what was experienced in 2016 when a major flooding event in the catchment caused significant disruption to port operations,” he said.

“The port was closed indefinitely during this flooding event when the Mersey River filled with debris.”

Mr Casey said TasPorts had communicated directly with its customers following the harbour master’s direction and would continue to actively monitor the situation.

“TasPorts is prepared for any emergency support and recovery operations that may be required,” he said.

“Planning is a critical form of risk mitigation, and the Devonport port users have been very supportive with their preparations for the suspension of operations.”

Mr Casey said the harbour master’s direction would be in place until Sunday (16 October) when the weather conditions were expected to ease.

The Bureau of Meteorology issued a major flood warning for the Mersey River on Thursday afternoon.

“In 24 hours to 3:00 pm Thursday, widespread rainfall totals of 50-80 mm have been recorded across the Mersey River catchment, with isolated totals up to 190 mm recorded around Lake Mackenzie. Further widespread rainfall totals of 60-110 mm are likely across the northern half of Tasmania with isolated totals up to 180 mm over higher terrain during the remainder of Thursday and into Friday morning,” the bureau said.

“Strong river level rises have occurred throughout the Mersey River catchment during Thursday. Major flooding is likely to develop at Kimberley and is possible at Latrobe Bridge. Moderate flooding may develop at Liena. With higher scenarios of forecast rainfall, additional river rises are possible.”