As there have been severe delays moving freight in and out of the port of Burnie, no less than three negative developments were blamed: the Coronavirus, industrial action in Melbourne and a cyber-attack.
Meanwhile, the backlog is causing stockpiles to build up in Tasmania as exporters struggle to get their produce to the mainland and the rest of the world. The Maritime Union is locked in a pay dispute with Toll Shipping while the company is still recovering from a ransomware attack from several weeks ago.
Tasmanian Freight Logistics Committee chairman, Brett Charlton, says the shipping delays is impacting exporters and importers in particular. "Exporters and importers are telling us that the situation is quite dire. On top of that domestic shippers are having significant difficulties as well. Export commodities are being stockpiled in Tasmania unable to be shipped out of the state, so it is quite a dire situation."
Of course, international freight was already under pressure from the spread of coronavirus. "International ships are changing their schedules quite regularly and missing ports to accommodate the reduced cargo coming out of Asia. But there is no denying the current discussions between Toll and its workforce is a very large contributing factor to the delays that we are experiencing at the moment."
Premium Fresh in Forth grows and sells fresh vegetables both domestically and internationally. 'We've missed orders that we'd liked to have made," said managing director Jim Ertler. He is worried about the future, as more produce will be ready for market in the coming weeks. Onions and carrots are ready for export this time of year and the apple harvest is just getting underway. More worrying for Premium Fresh is the reputational damage this disruption could have on Tasmania.
"If you end up with people doubting the reliability of Tasmania because of these sort of actions, then they lose confidence and it does not help us in the long term. People are missing out, our economy is suffering," he said.