Island’s rough passage
KING Island farmers are frustrated that a new interim shipping service is struggling to keep up with demand.
Delays in getting essential stock feed and fertiliser supplies to the island are causing concerns for farmers who are worried the interim service implemented by the State Government just two weeks ago may not be adequate.
The Government was forced to step in an take over shipping services to the island at the last minute after a suitable commercial operation could not be found.
TasPorts is managing the new interim service and has chartered the Investigator, a significantly smaller vessel than the previous SeaRoad Mersey.
The new vessel will service the island three to four times a week for the next six months until a larger vessel is found.
Farmers on the island have raised their concerns about the interim service with the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association.
TFGA president Wayne Johnston said this week the organisation was pushing for better short-term and long-term solutions when it came to the island’s shipping service.
“The ship in question hasn’t got the roll-on roll-off capacity anywhere near what it was supposed to have,” he said.
“When you consider that King Island produces 20 per cent of Tasmania’s beef, having a reliable shipping service with enough capacity is absolutely essential and one of the concerns is that this vessel just won’t be able to handle the rough seas that we get at times.”
Mr Johnston said any new service would also need to include shipments to and from Victoria.
State Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding said he wanted to reassure the King Island community that the Government was listening to their concerns and would provide an appropriate shipping service.
Mr Hidding said he had been advised by TasPorts that all freight orders placed from King Island had been filled and the island’s freight demand will continue to be met.
King Island mayor Duncan McFie said while he understood farmers’ frustrations at the moment he was confident the State Government would provide a suitable vessel in the next six months as planned.
Mr McFie said he had also spoken to the Government about the need to improve communication to the local King Island community about what is happening with the service so everyone has a clear understanding of the situation.
“There have been a lot of people upset about the change – it hasn’t been smooth and TasPorts has said it wouldn't be smooth,” Mr McFie said.
“I get the frustration ... people just need to calm down.”
While cattle shipments off the island have not been interrupted so far, some farmers are worried that capacity will be stretched at peak times.
The interim ship can carry eight livestock trailers, compared with a capacity of about 22 trailers on the previous vessel.
Island farmer and agent for fertiliser company Incitec Pivot, Robbie Payne said there was a backlog of about 3000 tonnes of fertiliser waiting to get on to the island.
However he said recent delays in getting shipments of feed concentrates for dairy farmers had been to biggest issue.