The Spirit of Tasmania will dock in Victoria at Geelong by 2022.
TT-Line, the ferry operator which was separated from Tasmania’s Department of Transport in 1993, today confirmed it signed a 30 year lease deal with Geelong Ports for a purpose-built passenger terminal capable of marshalling 600 cars.
The 12 hectare facility, earmarked for Corio Quay in North Geelong, 70 kilometres south-west of Melbourne’s CBD, will be configured with a dedicated freight terminal, café, children’s play zone, pet exercise area and 150 truck parks.
Since the travel service was established in 1985, Spirit of Tasmania ships have berthed at Station Pier, in Port Melbourne – an upmarket suburb itself a tourist attraction six kilometres from the city centre.
Last month, Tasmanian premier Peter Gutwein accused Victorian Ports of price gouging ahead of the lease at the Melbourne port expiring in two years.
Spirit of Tasmania sails about 800 times a year arriving in Devonport, 280 kilometres north west of Hobart.
TT-Line chooses function over style quitting Port Melbourne
Corio Quay is not near a public waterway (Station Pier is at the top of popular Port Melbourne Beach), retail (Bay Street is a block from where the ship currently docks), or the diversity of accommodation available in Melbourne’s inner southern suburbs.
Public transport isn’t close, either.
Ferry commuters will need to drive through major industrial zones regardless of whether they travel south to/from Geelong’s CBD or north, to/from Melbourne.
TT-Line chairman Michael Grainger said in a company statement, based on research, its passengers found Geelong easy to access.
“The new facility will be located 40 minutes from 80 per cent of its Victorian based freight customers and 55 minutes [drive] from Melbourne’s CBD.
“The move to Geelong provided the company with a unique opportunity to enhance the passenger experience and provide room to expand its freight offering in line with demand for many years to come,” he added.
“The company’s operations are often negatively impacted by significant congestion in the greater Port Melbourne area, particularly when cruise ships are in port, that causes delays in loading and discharge of passengers.
Mr Grainger said it is TT-Line’s view that these issues would worsen in future.
“Passenger feedback on this part of our operation has been critical, with passengers citing boarding queues of up to two and a half hours, which in turn impacts the sailing schedule.
“It has had an increasingly negative impact on our ability to deliver the level of service required for efficient operations and highlighted further potential issues with TT-Line’s new Spirit of Tasmania vessels coming on line and construction of associated infrastructure”.
The executive added in this ABC item the arrangement with Geelong Ports was financially advantageous to the operator.
“There was no animosity between us and Vic Ports. Station Pier has been a very good home to us over the years and its worked well, but quite frankly we’ve just outgrown it”.