Searoad 1

By Brett Charlton, Agility Logistics Tasmanian General Manager

For us folk that work across borders, moving goods between countries – sending whiskey to Japan, bringing in couches from China, sending carrots to the Middle East, importing engines from Europe… you get the idea – nothing is finer than a shiny new ship.

There is something about walking through the engine room of a new vessel and seeing pristine metal engines bolted to the deck with nuts that Godzilla would be proud of, seeing white walls, immaculate quarters, awe-inspiring control rooms and the latest technology all pulling together to enable trade.

Couple this with an enthusiastic Skipper and Chief Engineer and you have the perfect recipe for a slick operation.

Standing on the bridge of the Searoad Mersey II in Devonport listening to commentary on the capabilities of the new vessel made me stop to think of how we have evolved in the shipping world over the years.

Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely some dust of antiquity on some of the operations and regulations still haunting our industry, but progress is being made in other areas.

The fastening system on the Mersey II is interesting – it is a vacuum-like system that holds the vessel alongside – this holds the vessel off the side of the wharf without the need for lines.

There’s no need to wait for humans to position themselves whilst ropes are fastened, saving time and costs (there is part of me that acknowledges that this role going to the machines is a little sad, but this contemplation will surely be the same for the Skipper one day in the future).

The other aspect of this vessel tour that I found interesting was the change from diesel to LNG to power the vessel (pending arrival of the LNG tanks due towards the end of this year).

It is refreshing to hear the word “environment” in a sentence regarding shipping when usually the images conjured is of smoke clouds bellowing out of the funnel.

Whilst the Mersey II has been in operation for over a year now, Tasmanians should be very proud of private enterprise investing in our trading capability.

Searoad has invested over A$110 million in the new vessel and are in talks to order a second vessel.

Tolls have tow vessels being built now for deployment at the end of 2018.

Importers in Tasmania should be thinking very carefully now about their orders from overseas.

We are entering the twilight zone of shipping ex-North East Asia with holidays slowing orders in October and congestion pretty much guaranteed for the next three months.

We are already seeing some delays of less than container load shipments in the depots in Melbourne with truck waiting times exceeding five hours on bad days.