The Tasmanian government is playing down the multi-million-dollar price tag for the refurbishment of the two Spirit of Tasmania ferries, while stressing the project will create local jobs.
United Kingdom-based company Trimline has won the tender, but much of the work will be carried out in Devonport, Melbourne and Sydney.
In May 2014, Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding said that the refurbishments would cost “more than $10 million”.
Mr Hidding denied the $31.5 million final cost estimate was a blowout.
“No, in fact we expected it to be tens of millions, but of course we didn’t want to lead the market by saying that it was likely to be $40 million, because lo and behold that’s what it might have been,” he said.
The refurbishment will take place during the quieter winter months, and Mr Hidding is confident the ships will be ready to sail again by August of this year.
Trimline CEO Andrew Richards said the project was one of the largest his company had ever undertaken.
“It involves a very complex planning and logistics exercise,” he said.
“Given the distance from our home port of Southampton, obviously it has its challenges, but it also gives us some opportunities to meet and work with some new partners, which is great.”
Trimline maintains ships for the British navy and also helps maintain cruise ships that ply the Caribbean Sea.
Mr Richards said his company would partner with Hobart-based boat builder Incat to deliver the contract, and said Incat’s joiners, electricians, plumbers and technical welders would play a lead role.
TT-Line had been saving its dividends to replace the vessels, but with the refurbishment confirmed that has now been pushed out to 2022 at the earliest and the savings have been raided.
“It’s coming out of TT-line reserves. TT-Line always knew that it was a refurbishment or a replacement coming up and they’ve landed on a refurbishment,” Mr Hidding said.
TT-line’s chairman Mike Grainger said the government-owned company was on board with the refurbishment strategy.
“We wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t think it was cost effective,” he said.
Labor welcomed the announcement and said it would closely monitor the promise of jobs in Devonport.
An Opposition spokesman released a statement saying the party was also concerned the Government had not “put TT-Line in a position” where it could purchase new ships.