SeaRoad's next Bass Strait freighter will be a 210 metre whopper, the company's biggest ever vessel and longer than the Spirit of Tasmania ferries.
Devonport-based SeaRoad says it has secured its future growth plan by finalising an agreement with German shipbuilding yard Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft (FSG) to build a new roll-on, roll-off vessel with LNG propulsion for about $161 million.
It will be about 16 metres longer than the current Spirit ferries and about 1 metre shorter than competitor Toll's new Bass Strait vessels.
SeaRoad said construction would start in late 2021 and the ship was scheduled to start operations between Devonport and Melbourne in the last quarter of 2023.
The new vessel will replace charter vessel MV Liekut, which was also built by FSG.
SeaRoad executive chairman Chas Kelly said the company was continuously evolving to be the premium freight provider across Bass Strait.
"We're constantly looking for ways to enhance our logistics solutions for customers and, with our investment in this new vessel, the team at SeaRoad is confident in the future of transport between Tasmania and the mainland," Mr Kelly said.
"At over 40,000 tonnes gross, this will be the largest freight vessel in SeaRoad's history, continuing to grow our capacity and providing more options for local agriculture, aquaculture and manufacturing industries.
"We've been very pleased with how our two current FSG-built vessels have performed from both an efficiency and operational perspective.
"We look forward to continuing our successful relationship with the German shipyard and their experienced staff."
Mr Kelly said SeaRoad had invested significantly in infrastructure and equipment in Devonport and Port Melbourne in the past 18 months.
"We've invested more than $5 million in equipment to complement terminal activities, purchasing new heavy forklifts, terminal tractors, A-double trailer sets, side loaders, related prime movers and our fleet of rigid trucks," he said.
"We have also begun a $6 million investment in new technology to streamline and automate our systems and processes.
"Meanwhile, TasPorts' East Devonport Port Master Plan will provide the space required for our new vessel."
FSG chief executive Philipp Maracke said the company was proud to have brought the SeaRoad business to Flensburg (in northern Germany, near the Danish border).
"This order by a long-standing customer equals an important vote of confidence in both this new model, as well as our established expertise as an innovative German newbuilding yard," he said.
"Our aim is to combine superior quality and superior life cycle value.
"With this new vessel, FSG and SeaRoad will make an important contribution to sustainable shipping."
The new vessel will have a gross tonnage of 43,100, compared with SeaRoad Mersey II's 25,490.
If the new Spirits arrive as scheduled by 2024, it will mean the six main Bass Strait freight vessels will have been replaced within about eight years.
SeaRoad said the agreement for the new vessel took a year to negotiate.
Transport Minister Michael Ferguson said SeaRoad's commitment was "a huge vote of confidence in our state's economic future".
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