Is­land’s rough pas­sage

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS - KAROLIN MACGREGOR

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.

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