Hobart looks to give local producers direct export links

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Hobart Airport

Australia’s vast, sparsely populated territory means export gateways for many shippers boil down to just the big cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, Neil Madden reports.

This is frustrating for businesses on the southern island of Tasmania. However, Hobart Airport (pictured) is looking to develop a freight handling facility there to give local producers the chance to freight produce direct to international export destinations.

Tasmania is an important producer of farm products and seafood, primarily abalone and Pacific salmon.

The airport says it identified the unmet needs of southern Tasmanian growers of high value produce needing to be exported to meet rising demand in Asia and further abroad.

Hobart Airport CEO Sarah Renner tells Air Cargo Week that currently Tasmanian producers have to truck freight to the north-west coast of the island. From there it is loaded onto a ship and taken to Melbourne or Sydney, before being transferred to aircraft.

“This is certainly not the most efficient, nor cost effective logistics chain for Tasmanian businesses, so we decided to put the wheels in motion to make direct freight services from Hobart Airport possible,” Renner says.

The completion of the runway extension will be the first step. The airport is also developing a wide-body aircraft parking position that is needed for international services.

“With the feasibility study now complete, we are now undertaking further studies to identify the best location for the freight handling facility, which will also include cold storage, providing a facilitation point for time sensitive, high value goods,” Renner adds.

It is hoped that the A$13 million investment will obviate restricting factors Tasmanian producers face when exporting from the island state.

“Imagine a punnet of berries handpicked from a farm in the Coal Valley one day, and then being purchased at a market in southern Asia the next; the possibilities this will open up are immense,” she says.

Of course, infrastructure projects based on ‘build it and they will come’ don’t always turn out as hoped.

The airport accepts that its initial position would be to attract international passenger services to Hobart, and use the opportunity to move belly freight. Currently, the flight schedule is dominated by services to cities on the Australian mainland.

In 2016, a Qantas Freight service to Ningbo, China was scheduled which would have flown local dairy products to the Asian powerhouse. However, the service never took off due to “reasons beyond our control”, according to the airport.

“We remain hopeful that a direct service will be seen as an attractive alternative to the current delivery method,” she continued. One hope lies in Tasmania’s booming tourism industry.

If this continues it could encourage carriers to fly in visitors direct from Asia and elsewhere.