LOCAL resistance to the use of a small Victorian port for commercial cargo operations has seen the service proponent head to the Supreme Court.

Bass Strait Freight wants to use Apollo Bay, on the state’s south west coast, as the discharge point for shipments of live cattle from King Island.

BSF, formerly known as Furneaux Freight, has two small ro/ro vessels, Matthew Flinders III and Matthew Flinders IV, and operates scheduled services from its base at Bridport on Tasmania’s north-eastern tip, to Lady Barron on Flinders Island and other Bass Strait islands as required. It also calls at Gippsland’s’s Port Welshpool.

The Age today (12 March) reported that BSF had planned to begin using Apollo Bay – hitherto a fishing and tourist centre – in January this year but Colac Otway Shire rejected the proposal. BSF then sought an injunction against the council’s decision in the Supreme Court, but the application was dismissed and the matter is set to proceed to trial later this year.

The Age said court documents revealed the port was used for a small number of cattle shipments between 2010 and 2012, and BSF said it had “perfect” infrastructure and harbour depth for their vessels.

However, COS countered that Apollo Bay was classified as a local, not commercial, port and it was concerned about “the movement of a large vessel” and increased truck traffic in what is basically a resort town. Council staff had attended a forum last week hosted by BSF where community members expressed a “significant level of concern”.

Chief executive Anne Howard told The Age it was unclear what economic benefits livestock shipping would bring to Apollo Bay and the port manager had requested further information about the safety and environmental aspects of the proposal.

BSF director David Harris said Apollo Bay would become a common shipping point under his vision for servicing King Island and he hoped to eventually ship up to 20,000 head of cattle per annum, to open up new markets for KI farmers. Most mainland-destined cattle shipped off the island now move on Bass Island Line’s John Duigan from Grassy to Devonport, where they are transhipped to Searoad Shipping’s service to Melbourne.