TASMANIA'S chief ports owner, Tasports, has warned the State Government that the North's loss of ANL operations to Burnie could jeopardise the $150 million Bell Bay development.
Tasports, which is wholly owned by the Government and manages the state's ports, has told the Government publicly that the ANL deal with Toll Holdings could damage the future of port operations in the state, including Burnie.
The Burnie deal is believed to have already cost more than 20 stevedoring jobs at Bell Bay, with more to go.
The ANL Bass Trader left Bell Bay for the last time earlier this month, after seven years plying the Melbourne to Bell Bay run.
The loss will slash Bell Bay's movement of containers by more than 31,000 a year - or by almost half.
The future of the $150 million funding now hangs in the balance.
Infrastructure Minister Graeme Sturges said he was talking to all sides, but added: "We won't dictate to businesses about where they can situate their business in this state."
Bass Labor MHR Jodie Campbell said it was now up to the proponent how it proceeds with the $150 million expansion.
Tasports chief executive Robert Barnes said that while Toll may be able to service all of its container trade through Burnie in the short term; it did not address Tasmania's long- term needs.
"Bell Bay is the only Tasmanian port with sufficient industrial land for expansion and which does not face encroachment by urban development," Mr Barnes said.
He said Tasports was investing heavily to prepare a statewide strategic plan - "That plan requires the development of the $150 million Bell Bay Integrated Gateway project to ensure we can meet freight demand, not just for the next two to five years, but for the next 20 years," Mr Barnes said.
Mr Sturges appeared to confirm there had already been a meeting with Tasports over the issue.
"Tasports have made a statement today and I acknowledge that. I'm aware of the position they've made," he said.
Mr Barnes said that there may be some ability to increase container capacity at Burnie but it would not be possible to meet Tasmania's long-term growth through the Burnie port.
"The Burnie Port has limited terminal space available for both container and bulk ore storage and loading," he said.
Mr Barnes said that Tasmania's container traffic had increased from 292,868 units in 1999-00 to 474,186 in 2008-09. In the same period Bell Bay had increased from 23,448 to 91,926.
He said that although Burnie was still Tasmania's major container port with the import and export of a total of 213,196 containers in 2008-09, Bell Bay was the only Tasmanian port to record an increase in container traffic in the past year.
Opposition infrastructure spokesman and Braddon Liberal MHA Jeremy Rockcliff said the ANL-Toll deal was disappointing for Bell Bay in terms of job losses.
"In some ways it's Bell Bay's loss and Burnie's gain. However, this demonstrates the lack of a clear infrastructure plan for Tasmania," Mr Rockliff said.
The Tasmanian Greens accused Mr Sturges of being unaware that the ports corporation at Burnie port was in discussions with ANL to transfer that company's freight load away from Bell Bay and to Burnie.
Bass Greens MHA Kim Booth said that it was unacceptable that in the weeks following ANL's shock announcement that it was transferring its container freight, Mr Sturges could not detail a plan for the future use of the Bell Bay port or the $150 million expansion plans.