New player eyes Strait

A POTENTIAL buyer has emerged for the embattled State Government-owned shipping line as debate around its changed operation continues.

TasPorts’ subsidiary Bass Island Line is one of two shipping services operating freight transport for King Island. Warren Dick, Managing Director of Eastern Shipping Pty Ltd, operates the other. On a recent visit to King Island, Mr Dick said he would be interested in talking to the TasPorts Board if they decided to sell Bass Island Line (BIL). He said was open to taking on the whole island freight task.

“I would be most definitely interested to talk to BIL and TasPorts if that comes about. We have had a couple of discussions in the past. I’d be more than happy to talk to them about this,” Mr Dick said.

Eastern Shipping Pty Ltd. services King Island transporting livestock, fertiliser, general cargo, vehicles, equipment and machinery. The company links the island to Stanley in Tasmania and to Port Welshpool in Victoria. Mr Dick visited the island and was keen to listen to customers and King Islanders about their current shipping freight concerns since TasPorts BIL cut the island’s direct freight link to Victoria as well as concerns over freight costs and the island’s need for a shipping connection to Victoria.

His focus was on reliability, safe transport and differentiated his shipping business from the state-owned service provided by the John Duigan by offering end to end personal door to door service. Included in his discussions was the potential to establish Port Welshpool transport links to metropolitan Melbourne.

“My Dad (Les Dick) passed away last year and I took over the business. It’s been quite a challenge,” Mr Dick said. “It’s opened my eyes into the shipping community and the shipping business of Tasmania and King Island. “Dad was very passionate about shipping on to and off the island. I’m making sure that there are options. I came to the island to meet people and to make sure that you guys are happy with the service we provide.

“So Eastern Line is a private family business. We employ 24 Tasmanians full time. We also employ people on the island for freight forwarding. We are not a corporation and, to clarify, myself and my stepmother are the shareholders of the company and assets. “Eastern Shipping has a distribution centre in Launceston and in Stanley we own the cool stores next to where the ships dock. “We have two ships.

The Statesman, is a 55m roll-on roll-off vessel and the King Islander, is a 63m vessel. “The King Islander was built for Bass Strait. It’s a heavy, very strong roll-on roll-off vessel, built for rougher weather. It’s built properly. “With two ships we can also service Flinders Island. We deal mainly with TasPorts in Tasmania and for both islands. The Port Authority in Port Welshpool Victoria are very welcoming. Our business is revenue.”

Mr Dick said he could go into the Port of Melbourne, and he would be willing to look at it if customers wanted, however, it was very expensive. When reflecting on the State Government’s decision to purchase the John Duigan Mr Dick said his dad had said, “That’s not going to work. But that’s okay. We are going up against a competitor and it’s a government body.” “We have shown that we can compete, and we can compete with opposition and our business is sustainable,” Mr Dick said.

“We do a full pick-up service. If somebody from King Island orders something out of Launceston, Devonport, or Burnie or surrounds, we will go and pick that up and make sure it’s put on the boat. Our opposition doesn’t do that.”

During his meetings with small and large customers Mr Dick said islanders told him getting goods to a ship “was a headache”. “It’s something that Eastern Shipping will continue to address. “We have our own fleet of trucks, and we have our personnel on the road picking up and bringing freight back to our depots and we put the goods in containers if it needs containers or in the side trailers,” he said.

Eastern Shipping is currently working on the Melbourne to Welshpool transport links. Mr Dick said it was clear King Islanders wanted a direct route into mainland Australia and his discussions had extended to both Tasmania and Victoria. “I think they should have the ability to buy out of Victoria.”

The general manager of a Victorian transport company recently met with the shipping executive to discuss freight options linking Melbourne to Welshpool. “The company has four B-doubles that travel daily to Welshpool, a distribution centre in Harlem that they can receive the goods, pack and ship to Welshpool, and a yard that can hold containers or material freight and then as soon as the boat comes in, have it on the boat, ready to go,” Mr Dick said. The turnaround time to the island, weather permitting and volumes, would be possibly two days.

Mr Dick acknowledged that even with two vessels he would want the boat to be full and Eastern Shipping was very conscious of time sensitive cargo. “We’ve been trying to keep our pricing as low as possible for the fact that we understand that you guys live on an island. “The biggest challenges, I suppose for us, are volumes. “ That’s where two ships really help. “It is making sure that the volumes are there; making sure that the people of King Island are happy with their service and making sure that they’re comfortable and knowing that we can actually get the freight over on time.

“We’ve got a very good relationship with the guys over at Group 6 Metals. “We’re currently doing their accommodation units. we’ve got a very good relationship with them and they’re doing a good job over there. “Obviously, the weather plays a big part of what they’re trying to do at the moment, and I take my hat off to them.”

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