The government needs ensure it does not undermine TT-Line's ability to make decisions based on commercial interests regarding replacement of the Spirit of Tasmania vessels, a former Tasmanian premier says.
The government last year took an unexpected move to reject the TT-Line board's business case to sign on with Rauma Marine Constructions to built two new vessels at its Finnish shipyard for an anticipated $850 million.
Instead, it established a taskforce to see how the replacement project could best utilise a domestic workforce.
IN OTHER NEWS:
RMC and Austal are the only shipbuilders believed to have submitted a monohull proposal to the taskforce - the model desired by the TT-Line board.
INCAT has made a proposal for a purpose-build twin-hull catamaran to run alongside the existing Spirit vessels which come to the end of their lifespan by 2028.
Austal, a competitor to INCAT, build monohull and twin hull ships, however, the monohull structure would need to be built in the Philippines.
A lobbyist for Austal, Brad Stansfield, said the company would look to partner with state shipbuilders, including INCAT, under a Tasmanian alliance.
There has not been a call of tenders or bids by the taskforce, rather for shipbuilders to make broad proposals.
The next step for the government and TT-Line after consideration of the report would be negotiations over the cost of the vessel replacements and timeline for delivery.
Former premier Paul Lennon, who has been engaged as a RMC representative, said if it was resolved that TT-Line enter into a contract with RMC, a timeline for completion on the vessels and a final cost would be subject to negotiation.
On INCAT's proposal, Mr Lennon said it would be difficult for the company to maintain to different types of services and find space for the three vessels in Devonport, Bell Bay or Burnie.
"The two ships have to be replaced - they've come to the end of their life," he said.
"The government had already decided that multi-hulled vessels are not suited to the weather conditions on the Bass Strait.
"If the government is not concerned about the concerns from the tourism industry about switching mono-hulled vessels to multi-hulled vessels, then they're not listening."
Mr Lennon said the government needed to be careful it did not interfere with TT-Line's ability to make decisions based on the best commercial outcomes.
"We're talking about a very, very large amount of money and a very important service across the Bass Strait," he said.
"The Spirits provide an important role for freight logistics and passenger travel."
Burnie mayor Steve Kons, a former infrastructure minister, said he supported any decision to keep the TT-Line port at Devonport.
"The Spirits work well from where they do with monohulls so why change the formula," he said.
Infrastructure Minister Michael Ferguson said the report from the taskforce was expected to be received in the coming weeks.
"The significant interest from shipbuilders vindicates the government's decision to establish an independent taskforce to look at local opportunities in Tasmania and Australia, and we look forward to receiving the taskforce's report," he said.
"As we have always said, our intention has always been to maximise the potential for local jobs in the post-COVID shipbuilding industry and it would be negligent not to explore every possible opportunity for Tasmanians to benefit from the build."
What do you think? Send us a letter to the editor:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.