King Island brand impacted

Imports and exports from King Island were thrown into turmoil when SeaRoad decided to retire the Mersey.
Imports and exports from King Island were thrown into turmoil when SeaRoad decided to retire the Mersey.

A Legislative Council inquiry has heard that the King Island brand is suffering from not having a reliable shipping service.

The inquiry, chaired by Murchison independent MLC Ruth Forrest, was established to examine the island’s shipping and freight requirements, freight costs and the impact of high charges on businesses, and the adequacy of the island’s port facilities.

After making a submission to the committee, King Island Shipping Group chairman Greg Morris said businesses from dairy giant Lion to small primary producers consistently struggled with the time-critical issue of keeping their products on shelves on the mainland.

He said the “floating schedule” of shipping services, which were almost wholly weather-dependent, added to the difficulty and potentially impacted the King Island brand.

Mr Morris said the island’s community had always argued that there was no credible contingency plan if Searoad decided to stop operating former shipping vessel, the Mersey.

“And for that, it has cost us and (the government) quite dearly,” he said.

“We were purely relying on a commercial service who could have pulled out at any time.”

TasPorts since April has run an interim service on a smaller freight vessel, Investigator II, after SeaRoad decided to retire the Mersey.

King Island business owner Noel Cooke at the inquiry argued for direct access to Victorian markets and against a government-run triangular service that would run from King Island to Tasmania then Victoria.