A BIGGER, faster and more efficient freight ship is set to service Bass Strait by 2016, but exporters say it's ``too early to tell'' what benefit it will bring.
Tasmanian transport company SeaRoad yesterday announced that it had ordered a 180-metre ship from Germany, aiming to boost its freight capacity by 50 per cent and speed up transit times.
SeaRoad chairman Chas Kelly said the roll-in, roll-out ship ``secures the company's commitment to Bass Strait''.
``It gives Tasmanian businesses certainty,'' Mr Kelly said.
Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association chief executive Jan Davis said private sector investment was welcomed, but exporters needed frequent and overnight sailings.
``It's too early to tell what benefit it will bring to Tasmanian farmers,'' Ms Davis said.
The government last week rejected a proposal to run two freight-only ships across Bass Strait, in favour of a $10 million refurbishment of the existing Spirit of Tasmania ferries.
Tasmanian Logistics Committee chairman Steve Henty said the decision provided surety that the private sector would not have to compete with government.
``An increase in capacity was definitely needed,'' Mr Henty said.
``Anything to increase capacity across Bass Strait is a good thing for Tasmania.''
Mr Kelly said a second ship would be bought ``down the track''.
``There hasn't been a major investment in Bass Strait for 15 years,'' Mr Kelly said.
The ship will replace smaller vessel SeaRoad Mersey, but will be too large to dock at King Island.
``We'll be taking those discussions to government and the residents of King Island,'' Mr Kelly said.
``We've been working on this for a few years. We did the numbers and made the decision based on information available.''
Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding said the future for the Bass Strait freight and passenger market was looking positive.
The ship will cater for containers and specialised freight, dubbed essential for Tasmanian food exporters.