Port freight group 'hopeful'

AN INDUSTRY group working to replace Northern Tasmania's direct international sea freight service will pursue discussions with a potential operator.

The Bell Bay Industry Group hopes to lock in a service within six months.

Bell Bay Industry Group chairman Bob Gozzi said yesterday that he was aware of the belief that large modern freight vessels were not interested in servicing small regional ports like Bell Bay.

"But we believe that there are still the smaller ships that fit our port and would be available now and into the future," Mr Gozzi said.

"We are having discussions at the moment with a company which has the ships available for our needs and it's developing a business case."

State Infrastructure Minister David O'Byrne said at the weekend that the international shipping market had changed dramatically, with freighters getting larger and abandoning smaller ports.

"This is precisely why since the AAA consortium ceased calling at Bell Bay no other international shipper has stepped in to maintain the route," Mr O'Byrne said.

It is understood that Mr O'Byrne is only days away from announcing the members of a new Tasmanian freight logistics co-ordination team.

Its formation was one of the conditions of $20 million crisis funding from the federal government made available after the government-initiated Deegan report on Tasmanian ports and shipping was handed to federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese last May.

Mr O'Byrne said at the weekend that he would be tasking the TT- Line to undertake a review of its role as a freight provider as part of solving the region's sea freight problems.

He would not be drawn yesterday on whether TT-Line should carry more freight between Tasmania and Melbourne.

Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Neil McKinnon said that the group's proposed freight and transport committee would be different from the government-initiated freight logistics team.

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