The state's two biggest aquaculture companies say they are "extremely disappointed" at being excluded from high-level discussions about the replacement Spirit of Tasmania vessels.
In a letter to Premier Peter Gutwein on Tuesday, seen by The Advocate, Tassal and Huon Aquaculture raised their concerns regarding a perceived lack of consultation on the part of the Vessel Replacement Taskforce, which is expected to hand down its final report in the coming weeks.
"Given the importance of the freight service provided by the TT-Line for time-sensitive freight such as ours, we are extremely disappointed and concerned that your Vessel Replacement Taskforce has not been in touch with either Tassal or Huon Aquaculture to ensure that our needs are understood and taken account of," the letter, co-signed by Huon directors Peter and Frances Bender and Tassal chief executive Mark Ryan, read.
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"In fact, we have been advised that other export industries and freight companies who rely on the Spirits of Tasmania have not been contacted either.
"We fail to understand how your Vessel Replacement Taskforce can possibly prepare a report on Bass Strait service options for you without consulting the salmon industry or any other businesses who ship time sensitive freight and therefore rely solely on a reliable daily service provided by the TT-Line.
"A freight service provided by a multi-hulled vessel that is subject to restriction by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) will cause such a serious disruption to our industry that we want you to know that our time sensitive freight could not be carried on a catamaran service."
Clark independent MHA Madeleine Ogilvie voiced a rumour in the State Parliament this week that the government was considering buying a catamaran from Hobart shipbuilder Incat.
Infrastructure Minister Michael Ferguson did not answer questions about whether the government had been in discussions with Incat about buying or leasing a catamaran, saying only that the government is awaiting the release of the report.
The Benders and Mr Ryan have asked the Premier to give them his assurance that he will meet with them personally before the government begins considering the taskforce's recommendations.
We are extremely disappointed and concerned that your Vessel Replacement Taskforce has not been in touch with either Tassal or Huon Aquaculture to ensure that our needs are understood and taken account of.- Huon Aquaculture directors Peter and Frances Bender and Tassal chief executive Mark Ryan
Labor infrastructure spokesman Shane Broad said it was "extremely concerning" to hear that businesses such as Huon and Tassal that are reliant on TT-Line hadn't been consulted by the taskforce.
"Lack of capacity on the TT-Line is a bottleneck on the exports of time-sensitive freight, like salmon," he said.
"If these industries are to grow, we need extra freight capacity that suits their business and the government and Minister Michael Ferguson are ignoring this critical issue.
"The taskforce report has been delayed and there is so much uncertainty that businesses have taken the unprecedented step of publicly expressing concern."
However, a government spokesperson said the taskforce had met with freight and logistics providers that utilised the Bass Strait service "on behalf of producers and exporters".
"These meetings were held to inform modelling on projected growth in freight requirements across Bass Strait," the spokesperson said.
"The taskforce understands the needs of Tasmanian industries.
"The government's intention is that the taskforce report will be made public which will enable the opportunity for any feedback to be provided."
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