The Finnish shipbuilder that was once all but certain to construct the replacement Spirit of Tasmania ferries hasn't given up hope of securing the contract.
Former Labor premier Paul Lennon, who now works as a lobbyist, is acting on behalf of Rauma Marine Constructions, which signed a memorandum of understanding with the state government in February this year to deliver the new ships within the 2028 time-frame.
The government decided in July to pause the replacement process, establishing a taskforce to examine the potential for local manufacturing opportunities. Western Australian-based shipbuilder Austal and Tasmania's own Incat have since expressed strong interest in building the ships.
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"TT-Line started formal discussions with RMC very early this year," Mr Lennon said. "And I suppose the one query that many of us have is if the government wanted to rethink what they'd signed off on with the TT-Line board, then they probably should have done it then, rather than wait until July, right on the eve of RMC and TT-Line signing a contract."
"I [don't] object to the Premier wanting to satisfy himself that every possible local job that can be involved in the build is involved. But that doesn't go to then saying, 'I'm going to now abandon the advice that I previously accepted and go for a completely different design'."
Mr Lennon said he and RMC respected the government's process but "we need to put our position publicly".
Labor recently commissioned economist Saul Eslake to prepare a report on the move to pursue local manufacturing opportunities in the $850 million Spirit build. It found the decision could cost taxpayers up to $350 million each year the build is delayed. The government says the report is inaccurate. Labor is steadfast in its view that the ships need to be built in Europe.
Infrastructure Minister Michael Ferguson said the government wasn't ruling out any options for the build. "The MOU ... held the tentative delivery dates for the vessels while the contract and design specifications were negotiated. The taskforce process is now our focus."
Meanwhile, Incat chairman Robert Clifford told Triple M Hobart yesterday he would only consider accepting Austal's offer to partner with the company to build the ships if the government decided they needed to be built overseas and fitted out in Tasmania.
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