Open letter to the King Island community

Recently TasPorts and Bass Island Line (BIL) have been subjected to unreasonable criticism about the shipping service we run for the King Island community.

This needs to be corrected.

Making Grassy Port safe

It is wrong to suggest that TasPorts’ newly appointed Harbour Master changed the operating parameters of the Port of Grassy to advantage BIL.

Grassy is, and always has been, declared a day port. Dispensations for night navigation have been granted to small vessels and based on a safety assessment of each vessel. The recent introduction of larger vessels in the 50 to 80 metre length range prompted a safety review of the port by the Harbour Master, and the decision was taken to remove the option for vessels to apply for an exemption for night navigation. This decision applies to all operators, including BIL.

The decision was taken in the interests of safety of the port and surrounding environment.

There have been a number of false claims made in the media in relation to this matter that must be corrected.

  • It is false to suggest that vessels have sailed into the port without incident. In fact there have been several groundings in recent years.
  • It is wrong to claim that staff rostering is the solution. Grassy is a small port. There is simply not enough customer demand to justify operating it 24/7.
  • It is reckless to claim that self-regulation is suitable for navigation at Grassy. Not only is the risk of self-regulation to the safety of personnel, ships and the environment too high, but TasPorts actually has a responsibility to the State to regulate the port.
  • It is misinformed to reject the maximum wind speed requirement of 25 knots. In fact this is the standard agreed to by MAST a decade ago for the Port of Grassy following a number of groundings at the port.
  • It is unproven and unlikely that the new parameters will impact cattle MSA grading. The port’s operating parameters should have no impact on port users or their customers, assuming adequate planning to comply with the daylight requirements.
  • It is untrue to assert that the John Duigan docked at night on 16 May. In fact the vessel arrived at the Port of Grassy at 2.45pm that afternoon.
  • It is misleading to suggest that the vessel was unloaded despite the new parameters. In reality the vessel was unloaded and reloaded into the evening by prior arrangement with the landside Stevedores. Not only is this in compliance with the operating parameters but it is also an option available to all vessels using the Port of Grassy. These parameters have been communicated to other major vessel port users.

To repeat: the decision to remove the night navigation exemption at Grassy was taken in the interests of safety and for no other reason. We remain committed to working with all customers to find safe, practical solutions especially as we move into winter with shorter days and rough weather.

Thank you

Neither TasPorts nor BIL is above criticism. All that we ask is that feedback and commentary is provided with respect and with due regard to the facts. That is how the vast majority of our customers and stakeholders interact with us and I want to say thank you to you all for your support and your decency.

In the meantime, TasPorts and BIL will continue to get on with the job, day in and day out, of delivering a vital lifeline to the community of King Island.

Paul Weedon, CEO TasPorts