THE Tasmanian government has blocked plans to have new Spirit of Tasmania vessels built by a Finnish company, citing the impact of COVID-19 and the need to boost the local economy.

In a statement from TT-Line, the company said it had been advised by the TT-Line shareholder ministers that the government “will not proceed with the proposed vessel replacement contract” with Rauma Marine Constructions.

Chairman Michael Grainger said the government indicated there needed to be more consideration of local content and manufacturing jobs in Tasmania and Australia as part of the vessel replacement project.

“It is simply a matter of timing and the unprecedented impact COVID-19 is having and will have on state and national economies,” Mr Grainger said.

“The [state] government and TT-Line still believe it is essential that the vessels are replaced in coming years to support the growing passenger and freight transport needs of the state.

“We therefore look forward to working with the government on the next proposal and business case for its consideration that will further maximise local economic benefits.”

Mr Grainger said the government’s decision announced did not impact the company’s decision to move its Victorian port operations from Station Pier, Port Melbourne, to Corio Quay, near Geelong.

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Local shipbuilder Incat released a statement indicating they were keen to talk to the government about vessel construction plans.

“We understand that a taskforce will shortly be established to determine the capability of Australian shipbuilders to deliver vessels which suit TT Line’s operational requirements,” said chair Robert Clifford.

“Incat, as an Australian shipbuilder with over 40 years’ experience delivering vessels to ferry operators from all over the world, enthusiastically looks forward to an opportunity to meet with that taskforce,” Mr Clifford said.

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