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This Day in History

Australian History

Tuesday, January 13, 2004. :   The Spirit of Tasmania III makes the first Sydney to Tasmania voyage.

     Ferry services first began operating regularly between Melbourne and Tasmania in 1921. With the increasing popularity of the automobile, it became apparent by the 1950s that a vehicular service would be required. Early travellers wishing to drive their own cars in Tasmania had to arrange for passage on the "Taroona" from Melbourne, and cars had to be loaded and unloaded using the ship's cranes.

The "Princess of Tasmania", which commenced operations in 1959, was the first Roll-on/Roll-off vessel to employ technology developed in Europe during the postwar period. Commissioned by the Federal Government, and operated by the government-run Australian National Line, the Princess of Tasmania could carry 333 passengers and 130 cars. Various other passenger and vehicular ferries followed.

In 1985, the Australian National Line ceased its Bass Strait operations. The Federal Government funded the establishment of the TT-Line, which was to be owned by the people of Tasmania, and operated by a Board of Management that reported directly to the State Government. The "Abel Tasman" was the first vessel to run under the new TT line, doing so until it was replaced in 1993 by the "Spirit of Tasmania". The company expanded its operations to include a faster passenger-only catamaran, and eventually increased its vehicular services with twin vessels the Spirit of Tasmania I and II, with nightly services between Port Melbourne and Devonport commencing on 1 September 2002.

In 2003, TT Line announced a new service which would run between Tasmania and Darling Harbour in Sydney, in addition to the established Melbourne to Devonport service. The first Sydney to Tasmania run on the new Spirit of Tasmania III commenced on 13 January 2004. It was initially very popular. However, a significant fall in domestic tourism coupled with increasing running costs forced TT Line to cease the Sydney to Tasmania service just two and a half years later, on 27 August 2006.

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