Government takes the slow boat on freight fix

OK EVERYONE, just relax, don't stress, breath deep, smell the roses, everything is under control.

The state government mentioned last week that it plans - PLANS - to spend $600,000 on CONSULTANTS to help fix Tasmania's freight problems.

Thank goodness for that.

I mean - we've only been talking about a freight shipping crisis for 15 months.

There is no need to get excited - there is plenty of time to have a think, organise a few more meetings, appoint a consultant, or two or three, come up with some recommendations that everyone will ignore - again.

Tasmania will still have viable export industries by the time some resolution on the crisis has been reached - maybe.

Northern Tasmanian businesses that import their goods or parts for installation or manufacture will still be waiting patiently for an alternative to the Bell Bay container shipping service that was scrapped in August 2011.

Or they had a rich relative die and leave them enough money to cover the massive cost of importing their goods through Melbourne, now the most expensive port in the country, into Burnie and road freighting home.

Oh sorry. Am I going on a bit?

It's just that I'm gob-smacked at how we respond to what everyone agreed at the time - 15 months ago - was a crisis.

"Crisis", according to the Oxford dictionary is "a turning point, moment of danger, suspense in politics, commerce etc".

To most thinking people that would suggest the need for urgent action.

In August the year before last, there were fears that Northern Tasmania could lose some of its biggest industries because of the shutdown of the Bell Bay container freight shipping service.

This came after the last dedicated container shipping service to and from Northern Tasmania was withdrawn after the direct Singapore to Bell Bay service was cut the previous May.

Bell Bay Industry Group chairman Bob Gozzi said at the time that a subcommittee had been formed to immediately initiate discussions with possible alternative freight carriers such as Toll, Searoad ANL and AAA Shipping.

People were worried about the long-term viability of the Bell Bay port with the withdrawal of the container business.

People were worried that industries would go broke or pull out of Tasmania because of the huge cost of the only INTERIM alternative for getting their goods in and out of the state which was road transporting them to Burnie or Devonport.

That was 15 months ago.

Just before Christmas - 2012 not 2011 - the state government finally appointed the Freight Logistics Co- ordination Team.

Evidently the team now wants specialised advice.

Evidently the highly detailed, federal government-initiated Deegan report on Tasmanian ports and shipping, handed to federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese last May is not enough.

Two state government tenders are being advertised, according to The Examiner (January 22).

One is a $250,000 contract to analyse Tasmanian freight issues and future market demand and the other is a $350,000 contract to examine supply chains and benchmarking costs.

Tenders for the consultants close tomorrow (January 30).

The Freight Logistics Co- ordination Team meets again on February 25.

So you see - relax, don't stress, people are on to this.

Something will happen in the fullness of time.

Maybe.

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