Discussions on building the new Spirit of Tasmania vessels in Australia may be further advanced than the state government has admitted.
It was announced on Tuesday the government had scrapped plans to have the ships built internationally and would establish a task force to look at having the two new vessels built domestically.
Premier Peter Gutwein said the government had considered a domestic build of the ships over the past few weeks and had been in discussions on the matter Prime Minister Scott Morrison who was said to be supportive of the idea.
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The government did not respond to questions on whether a deal was underway over the build which could see the cost subsidised by federal money through the Naval Shipbuilding Program.
The vessels would most likely be built in South Australia if the plan was to build domestically.
Mr Gutwein at Tuesday's press conference said the South Australian Government was aware of his government's decision to look to build in Tasmania and discussions would take place through the task force.
Liberal senator Eric Abetz said discussions over a possible funding arrangement with the federal government would be premature at this stage.
"The state government as it ought is testing the market and keeping options open to get the best possible value for taxpayers," he said.
Liberal senator Richard Colbeck said the federal government was willing to engage in any discussion that might facilitate jobs and economic growth.
"I look forward to continuing conversations with the Tasmanian Government regarding the job opportunities which might eventuate from an Australian build for the Spirit of Tasmania replacements," he said.
The first of the two vessels was due to be delivered next year by German company Flensburger-Shciffbau-Gesellscraf until the company went into financial strife.
A memorandum of understanding was reached in February with Finnish company Rauma Marine Constructions on a possible contract to build the new vessels but this has since expired.
TT-Line chairman Mike Grainger said the board had recently made a unanimous decision to sign a contract with RNC Finnish builder.
But this was rejected by the government.
"We understand the government's decision and it has been communicated well to us," Mr Grainger said.
Mr Gutwein said TT-Line made decisions based on what was in the best interests of the business as well as passenger and freight movements.
"My job is to take into account the best interests economically, but also the best interests socially, of our state," he said.
Mr Grainger said the communication line with RNC would remain open throughout the task force's investigation which is expected to take between three and six months.
He said TT-Line looked at local options before it signed a contract with FSG in 2018.
He said the timeline for delivery of the new vessels was uncertain and the design, cargo hold and passenger capacity would all be reviewed.
A MATTER OF TIME
Mr Gutwein said the government was committed to building two new ships within a 2028 time frame.
But Labor's infrastructure spokesman Shane Broad said the state could potentially be waiting until 2028.
"It goes to prove the government cannot deliver on big projects," he said.
"If this is a budget decision, be honest about it.
"Don't talk about getting local manufacturing up and running when it is at least six years away.
"The Liberals have ignored the advice of the TT-Line Board and are instead covering up their infrastructure incompetence with spin."
Mr Ferguson said the current vessels could be used until 2028.
"So there is no rush," he said.
North by North West chief executive Tom Wootton said it was difficult to criticise a decision to keep large investment dollars within Australia.
"But adding more uncertainty to an already uncertain tourism landscape is less than ideal," he said.
Mr Wootton said the government needed to provide the North-West with a timeline for the new ships as soon as possible to inform its recovery strategy.
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