The iconic ferry that runs between the mainland and Tasmania has moved into its new Geelong port—and the hunt is on for accommodation to be developed to meet travellers’ needs.
The Spirit of Tasmania now calls a 12ha facility at the port home—the Spirit of Tasmania Quay at Corio Quay Road, North Geelong.
It boasts a world-first three-level access ramp, improving load on and off times for vehicles.
On the back of the move from Port Melbourne, the City of Greater Geelong council is now acting on plans to find a low-cost camping and caravan site to support the service.
Mayor Peter Murrihy said the ferry’s move would increase tourism opportunities in the area thanks to the 450,000 passengers expected to use the new port annually.
“Our tourism, accommodation and hospitality sectors are all licking their lips at the prospect of thousands of new visitors each week,” Murrihy said.
“It is why the council is keen to determine the potential for a new low-cost camping site in the northern suburbs.”
A feasibility study for the council undertaken in June this year showed that accommodation would be needed for the increased number of interstate tourists that would arrive in Geelong via the ferry service and to use it.
The study estimated that 25,000 recreational vehicles, including motorhomes, campervans, coaches and caravans, would enter arrive in Geelong each year thanks to the relocation.
The council has requested further information on an operating model for the site and is proposing to look at a potential location at Seagull Paddock in the city’s north.
The council said that if that location was deemed incompatible it would ask for expressions of interest from landowners and tenants from sites north of Cowie Creek.
A survey on the issue received 595 responses, including from 405 residents.
“Eighty-six per cent of residents supported providing low-cost camping and facilities at a site in North Geelong,” Murrihy said.
“Councillors will carefully consider the needs of campers and local residents, and the need to reduce the risk of illegal camping and amenity issues.”
The study also found that recreational travellers would contribute on average $65 a day to the Greater Geelong economy and that a camping site would support the local tourism industry, which provides more than 9200 jobs.
Windermere Ward councillor Kylie Grzybek said low-cost camping contributed a lot to the economy.
“Camping is the fastest growing segment of Australia’s domestic tourism market,” Grzybek said.
“In fact, low-cost camping contributes an average of $1.4 million annually to Geelong’s economy, with spending across our hotels, cafes, restaurants, and tourist attractions.”
TT-Line Company Limited owns the Spirit of Tasmania, which provides a regular ferry service between Devonport in Tasmania and Geelong in Victoria.
Its previous home was the ferry terminal at Station Pier in Port Melbourne.
Plans to move the Spirit of Tasmania to Geelong were announced by TT-Lines in 2020 as the service had outgrown Station Pier and larger ferry vessels were being built for the service.
“The company’s operations are often negatively impacted by significant congestion in the greater Port Melbourne area, particularly when cruise ships are in port, that causes delays in loading and discharge of passengers,” TT-Line chairman Michael Grainger said at the time.
“It is our view that these issues will only worsen in the future.
“Passenger feedback on this part of our operations has been critical, with passengers citing boarding queues of up to 2.5 hours, which in turn impacts the sailing schedule.”
The move to the new $135-million quay and terminal is expected to increase tourism expenditure by $57.3 million in Geelong and by $174.1 million in Victoria before 2030.
The Spirit of Tasmania Quay took 40,000 hours to build with 400 workers on-site at its peak.
The new quay has a passenger terminal building, passenger vehicle marshalling area for 600 cars, more efficient passenger vehicle check-in facilities, security facilities, public amenities, a cafe, children’s play area and a pet exercise area.
“Through this project we introduced new engineering innovations to the region, including a world-first three-level access ramp fabricated right here in Geelong and an automated mooring system (AMS) that allows vessels to be berthed with the push of a button,” GeelongPort chief executive Brett Winter said.
The ramp will service the current Spirit of Tasmania and the larger vessels due to join the service in 2024.
The freight service will continue with a new dedicated freight terminal, streamlined passenger and freight entry and exit points, 150 truck parking bays and a secure freight yard.
“The new freight yard will enable cargo pick up and drop off at any time, day or night, with access to heavy transport approved roads,” Grainger said.
“The new facility will be located 40 minutes from 80 per cent of our Victorian -based freight customers and 55 minutes from Melbourne’s CBD.”
Geelong is also welcoming cruise ships back after the pandemic.
“After a couple of Covid impacted years, we’re also looking forward to welcoming cruise ships back to Corio Bay,” Murrihy said.
“Six cruise ships will dock here this holiday season, bringing 5000 guests ashore.”