It had been impossible for the TT-Line to forewarn 450 passengers due to travel on the Devil Cat from George Town to Melbourne on Sunday that the service had been cancelled, its chief executive said yesterday.
TT-Line chief executive Peter Simmons yesterday responded to criticism that passengers had wasted time and money getting to George Town on Sunday when a decision had been made to keep the Devil Cat in Melbourne and offer travellers the alternative of catching the Spirit of Tasmania from Devonport.
Mr Simmons said that the TT-Line had managed to inform some passengers who had left phone numbers to the places in which they were staying but most people were simply not contactable.
"It's impossible for us to contact holidaymakers in Tasmania when we have no idea where they are staying," he said.
Rough seas in Bass Strait kept the Devil Cat in Melbourne on Saturday and Sunday.
The Spirit was brought in to help ferry stranded Devil Cat passengers back to Melbourne.
TT-Line chief financial officer Brian Maguire said that 416 of the 450 passengers and 195 of the 197 vehicles booked to travel on Sunday's Devil Cat service returned to Melbourne on the Spirit yesterday.
"Those who wanted to go went.
There was no one stranded who wanted to travel," Mr Simmons said.
Mr Maguire said that if the weather continued to disrupt the Devil Cat service this week, the Spirit would be used as the first alternative but if necessary cargo companies would also be asked to help move vehicles.
It was the fifth time a Devil Cat crossing had been cancelled since the trial service started on December 17.
George Town Chamber of Commerce president David Wharton said that the latest cancellation could affect the prospects of a long-term fast-ferry service being put in place across Bass Strait.
"It could but everyone knows that Bass Strait is a rough patch of water and passenger safety has got to come first," Mr Wharton said.
"It was disappointing it was delayed for two days but it's no way as bad as the previous (Sea Cat) service.
This one's been a lot more dependable."
Mr Wharton said that a larger replacement vessel for any future service might cope better with the big seas of Bass Strait.
A George Town motel owner said that Devil Cat passengers forced to stay at his establishment were angry about having their holiday plans upset.
"I think it's fairly disappointing all round because these people won't be back," he said.
But Karen McIvor, owner of the George Town backpackers Travellers Lodge, said the Devil Cat drama had not soured her guests' experience of Tasmania.
"This is something people have to expect.
The boat can't go if it affects people's safety, end of story," she said.