A relocation of Launceston’s shiplift to Bell Bay could create more employment for the region and allow the industry to take advantage of a growing market in marine engineering and repairs.
An industry-lead push to investigate the benefits of moving the shiplift, located at Invermay, was announced by the state government on Monday.
The $100,000 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was announced by Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding, where he was joined by representatives from TasPorts, Southern Marine Shiplift and the Launceston Chamber of Commerce.
Southern Marine Shiplift general manager Sean Richardson said customer demand had outstripped the current site.
“We are in a position now where we’ve had to turn customers away,” he said.
The existing site can only handle one ship at a time and is also limited to ships of a maximum size of 60-metres in length and 1300 tonnes in weight.
The MOU will provide $100,000 for a feasibility study into moving the shiplift and is funded jointly by government-owned TasPorts, Southern Marine Shiplift and Launceston-based engineering company Hayards.
Mr Richardson said the move had been something SMS had been looking at for several years but it had gathered speed in the last 18 months.
“We employ 14 full-time employees and provide contracts for local engineering companies.
“Relocation and the potential of going to larger vessels would see that [employment] increase dramatically.”
Mr Hidding said the MOU would investigate the benefits of relocating the shiplift but would also look at the benefits of establishing a marine maintenance hub at Bell Bay.
“Launceston already has many residents with the unique skills needed to work in the sector, and this study has the potential to set the region up as a central hub across Australia for the marine engineering industry,” Mr Hidding said.
“We are not talking about a new skill set here, it’s expanding on the skill set we already have.”
TasPorts is a major customer of SMS and chief executive Paul Wheeton said they had received feedback from the wider maritime community that a facility such as this would be supported in Tasmania.
He said TasPorts’ fleet of tugs were serviced annually by SMS but said the relocation and expansion of the shiplift would help to future-proof their own fleet.
It would also benefit the Australian Maritime College.
The Launceston Chamber of Commerce has also done analysis to see if there was a market to support the expansion and move.
Bell Bay economic steering committee welcomed the announcement.
“As far as industrial precincts in Australia go, Bell Bay arguably presents one of the best opportunities for new maritime and manufacturing businesses to relocate, expand or establish operations,” steering committee chairman Ray Mostogl said.
He said Bell Bay’s full potential had yet to be tapped.
George Town mayor Bridget Archer said the announcement had helped the council achieve a goal to promote the growth of the industrial precinct.
“Growing and expanding economic activity at the Bell Bay Industrial Precinct presents an immediate opportunity to facilitate economic development for the George Town community and the Tamar Valley region,” she said.
The MOU feasibility study is expected to be completed in the next six to 12 months.
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