King Islanders hope their ferry woes have come to an end as John Duigan sets sail
The John Duigan has already been in service a week with twice the capacity of its predecessor. (Supplied: BassIsland Line)
The latest in a long list of shipping solutions for King Island has been officially unveiled, with high hopes the John Duigan is up to the task.
The 80-metre John Duigan has replaced the smaller Investigator II, which was criticised as being unreliable and too small to meet the island’s freight needs.
The Investigator II had been servicing the Bass Strait island for about a year after replacing the SeaRoad Mersey, which made its final sailing in 2017.
The $10 million vessel will be operated by TasPorts subsidiary Bass Island Line and has double the Investigator II’s capacity for freight and livestock.
TasPorts chief executive Paul Weedon said the larger ship would speed up delivery times.
“What it means to business and the community is a direct link between Victoria and King Island,” he said.
“That’s something they’ve been looking for for over two years since the old SeaRoad service withdrew.
“This is also about a more reliable, more consistent service.
“One of the things we’re doing now is moving to a weekly fixed day of the week sail schedule so people don’t even have to look on a website, they don’t have to wonder when the ship’s going to be here, which has been the case over the past 12 months.”
The Malaysian-built ship will run a triangular service from Bell Bay to Grassy on King Island to Geelong in Victoria.
The weekly service started last week.
The 80-metre John Duigan was named after the island’s first lighthouse keeper. (Supplied: BassIslandLine)
Mayor taking a wait-and-see approach
The ferry will run a weekly service between Bell Bay, King Island and Geelong. (Supplied: TasPorts)
It is expected the John Duigan — named after King Island’s first lighthouse keeper — will be the best King Island ferry yet in terms of sea handling.
“Bass Strait is a challenging bit of sea,” Mr Weedon said.
“We believe the ship will cope with those conditions well, and we believe it will deliver the reliable service we want.”
Extra sailings could be offered during peak times.
In early 2017, the King Island community was so concerned about the inadequacy of the Investigator II there was talk of seceding to Victoria.
King Island Mayor Duncan McFie welcomed the new vessel somewhat guardedly.
“It’s fantastic that we’ve got a service that is dedicated to the island. [I’m] looking forward to seeing how it all actually works when we get things going,” he said.
“I think we’ve got a couple of challenges with some of the ports it’s using, but it’s early days.”
Good service vital for the island’s commerce
Councillor McFie said a reliable freight service was vital for the island.
“I think about King Island’s gross regional product in the order of something like $500 million — that’s what we bring to Tassie and Victoria and King Island, so it is mission critical that we have a vessel to deliver our goods and services,” he said.
Last year a damning report on King Island’s troubled freight service was tabled in Parliament.
The Legislative Council Committee inquiry found that the previous service, also run by TasPorts subsidiary Bass Island Line, was needlessly unreliable and expensive.
The 120-page report recommended King Islanders be involved in discussions about the island’s freight needs and that any new service have a direct route to Victoria.
Primary Industries Minister Sarah Courtney said the Government had addressed King Island’s needs.
“The Government has been really responsive,” she said.
“Last year, we saw the Investigator II come on board and also late last year we saw the Deputy Premier commit to this vessel.
“In a very short turnaround we’ve seen this vessel arrive here at the island and already sailing.”