Minister rejects Greens' call for catamaran 

CONDUCTING a new feasibility study into whether Tasmania should run a super-fast catamaran service across the Bass Strait instead of the Spirit of Tasmania ships is a ``waste of time,'' Economic Development Minister David O'Byrne has said.

Greens leader Nick McKim proposed the $100,000 study yesterday, saying Tasmania should ``back itself in'' and use Hobart-based shipbuilder Incat to build a large catamaran to replace the existing TT-line ships.

``We have one of the best boat builders in the world here in Tasmania and we have the opportunity to solve one of Tasmania's biggest problems using local ingenuity and local jobs,'' Mr McKim said.

The Spirit of Tasmania I and II are scheduled for replacement in 2017 and a TT-Line subcommittee spent months investigating potential replacements.

The report was put before cabinet in December but a government decision on buying the new ships has been put off until after the next election. It's understood recommendations included buying two smaller freight-only ships in addition to the Spirit of Tasmania vessels.

Mr McKim said he had not spoken to Incat chairman Bob Clifford about the proposal, but based it on comments Mr Clifford made to  The Mercury  about a proposed $200 million 150-metre catamaran that could make the crossing in just five hours, meaning up to three crossings a day.

Mr O'Byrne said the TT-Line subcommittee had already investigated all viable options.

``We made it very clear to TT-Line that no stone would be left unturned, so of course an Incat vessel was one of the considerations along with a whole range of other options,'' he said.

``Having external people who do not understand the Bass Strait freight business will not add to it and ultimately it will be a waste of time.''

Incat fast catamarans were used in the Devil Cat passenger service between Melbourne and George Town in the late 1990s but ceased in 2002. The combination of a 90-metre vessel and the notoriously rough passage earned it the nickname ``Spew Cat''.

Mr McKim said a larger vessel would not have the same problems.

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