By Graeme Kemlo
Victoria’s second city, Geelong, 70 km south west of Melbourne is underway with works to its port infrastructure that will see the Spirit of Tasmania shift from Port Melbourne’s Station Pier.
Citing lower port charges, less traffic congestion and greater efficiency for passenger and freight loading, Tasmania was behind the move to secure its vital sea-road link, having accused the Port of Melbourne of ‘price gouging’.
Station Pier has a long link with the 20th century immigration wave that began post-war and saw two million mainly British and European migrants arrive by ship into Australia, many berthing at Melbourne’s Station Pier and its now demolished sister, Princes Pier.
But in the 21st Century Melbourne port has increasingly sought luxury cruise ships and the international passenger dollar. Schedules are often tied to major events in this city, including the F1 Grand Prix, Australian Open tennis and the city’s Spring Racing carnival.
Melbourne’s loss will be Geelong’s gain as the 800 sailings per year by the two Spirit of Tasmania ferries, which hold 1400 passengers each will flow into the visitor economy of Geelong and the Great Ocean Road – Victoria’s best-known tourist attraction.
After 35 years operating from Melbourne (prior to that there was the Princess of Tasmania service), TT-Line has signed a 30-year deal for Corio Quay, north of Geelong to be its new port. The 12 hectare site includes a passenger terminal, an area to handle 600 cars prior to boarding, as well as food and beverage outlets and even a children’s play area. It is scheduled to commence operations during 2022.
The trip to Tasmania is expected to take about the same sailing time and while it will mean a longer drive for Melburnians to the point of departure, they may add an overnight stop in Geelong before sailing.
Business Events Geelong’s Mark Day expects his region will benefit directly from accommodation and hospitality services for passengers prior to departure and on arrival from Tasmania.
“As a gateway we are ideally positioned for visitors to Tasmania and also to our region, especially the Great Ocean Road,” he said, adding that there were also opportunities for business events to be built around the ferry’s pre and post sailings.