CALLS by Tasmania’s Labor Opposition for an inquiry into delays to the new Spirit of Tasmania ferries have been endorsed by local government and business.

Labor leader Dean Winter on Saturday [1 June] announced the opposition would move to establish a Parliamentary inquiry into what the Rockliff Government knew about the problems confronting the project, and when.

It has been revealed over recent weeks that TT Line had been obliged to pay an additional $81.5 million for Spirit of Tasmania IV and V and forego any late-delivery penalties in order to eventually receive the vessels from Finland’s Rauma Marine Constructions.

It also came to light in Tasmania’s Parliament that the Finnish Government matched TT Line’s monetary contribution and proved financial guarantees to RMC, which is struggling with labour and material cost blow-outs partly attributable to the Ukraine-Russia war.

At a media conference in Devonport Mr Winter said an inquiry was necessary to “get to the bottom of the mess”.

There were important questions to be answered around why TT-Line agreed to a bailout during [state election] caretaker mode, whether the Premier and Treasurer had approved the bailout and when the ships are expected enter into service.

“TT-Line made this decision two days before the election and we’re not sure whether they got approval from the Liberals, but they certainly didn’t get approval from the Labor Party.

“The replacement Spirits are the largest and most significant infrastructure project in the state’s history.  It’s being grossly mishandled,” he said.

Mr Winter’s concerns were echoed by the Devonport City Council and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, whose leaders decried the uncertainty surrounding the introduction of the much-need extra passenger and freight capacity the new ships will bring.

Economist Saul Eslake has estimated the new ferries will provide a $360 million boost to the Tasmanian economy.

Transport minister Eric Abetz this morning told the ABC that just like a baby, the new ferries will arrive “when they’re ready”.

Premier Jeremy Rockliff said it would be up to the Parliament to decide whether any inquiry would go ahead.