INFRASTRUCTURE Minister David O'Byrne has rejected a suggestion from shipping companies that there's no capacity for TT-Line to put a freight- only ship on Bass Strait.
Mr O'Byrne would not confirm whether the government-owned business was considering buying a freight-only ship, but said there was scope for another ship on the route that carried more than 80 per cent of Tasmania's sea freight.
"We know that we need to create more competition on Bass Strait, that's how you drive down prices," Mr O'Byrne said.
He did not support a suggestion made in Parliament yesterday by Labor backbencher Brenton Best to save $200,000 in fuel costs a week by having the Spirit of Tasmania sail direct to the Port of Hastings on the Mornington Peninsula, not Station Pier in Port Melbourne.
Mr O'Byrne was speaking at a meeting of the Freight Logistics Co-ordination Team, which is due to release its final report into Tasmania's international shipping crisis in November.
He said Tasmania could attract an international shipper by making the process more efficient, and urged the federal government to support $40 million for freight infrastructure pledged by the former federal government in the election campaign.
"Once the volumes are lifted, that's when shippers will come because that's when the money can be made," he said. Opposition freight spokesman Rene Hidding maintains Liberal's plan to subsidise an international container ship by $33 million over three years will lift Tasmania's international shipping deadlock.
But freight committee member Steve Henty said he was sceptical that proposal would work in the long term, saying it could result in the government having to pay more to prevent the shipper from abandoning the state at the end of the three years.
Mr Henty said the committee was looking at whether Tasmania's current international freight volumes of 35,000 a year would increase if there was a direct container ship option.