Bass Strait ferries potential Aust build

Ethan JamesAAP
The Tasmanian government says it want to see if two new Bass Strait ferries could be built locally.
Camera IconThe Tasmanian government says it want to see if two new Bass Strait ferries could be built locally.

Two new Bass Strait ferries could be built in Australia after the Tasmanian government pulled the pin on an agreement with a company in Finland.

The state government announced on Tuesday it wanted to explore local options for the purported $850 million project to replace the current Spirit of Tasmania vessels.

Tasmania Premier Peter Gutwein said it was vital Australian manufacturers were given an opportunity amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"I've spoken with the prime minister and he is very supportive of us considering what options there may be within Australia and Tasmania," he told reporters.

"We are not going to leave any rock unturned.

"We want to understand how much of this money can be spent in this country and the jobs it could support."

The current Spirit of Tasmania ships, which began sailing the route in 2002, are due to reach the end of their life in 2028.

The delivery date of replacement vessels has been pushed back several times.

Two 200-metre-plus ships with 30 per extra capacity were expected to be on the water in 2021 under a deal with a German shipbuilder.

But the state government cancelled the contract in February citing the company's financial issues.

The state then undertook a memorandum of understanding with Finnish business Rauma Marine Constructions (RMC), with a 2022/23 finish slated.

It is unclear what impact the decision to walk away from RMC will have on the ferries' delivery date or if their design will change.

Mike Grainger, Chairman of TT-Line, the state-government-owned company which operates the ferry service, said the board wanted to sign a deal with RMC but understood the government's decision.

He was unsure if Australia currently had the ability to build the type of ferry needed.

"It's one of the most harsh routes in the world," he said.

Mr Gutwein said a taskforce would explore a range of construction options, including all-Australian and a mix of Australian and overseas.

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