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Tuesday, 5 May 1987
Page: 2296

Senator ZAKHAROV —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. It relates to the safety of drive-through type ferries similar to the British ship Herald of Free Enterprise, which sank off Zeebrugge, Belgium, on 6 March this year. Since the Tasmanian Government-owned and operated ship, the Abel Tasman, is of similar design, can the Minister give an assurance that the safety of passengers on the Bass Strait ferry is not at risk?

Senator GIETZELT —It is true, as Senator Zakharov has stated, that the Tasmanian Government owns and operates a ship, the Abel Tasman, which is of similar design to the Herald of Free Enterprise, which was tragically lost when it capsized and sank off Zeebrugge, Belgium, in March of this year. The construction and operation of such ferries are matters to which the Department of Transport has given a great deal of consideration following that tragic accident in order to make sure that there is no possibility that such a tragedy could be repeated in our operation in Bass Strait. Ferries of a similar design operate not only here but in many other parts of the world. I am advised that the Abel Tasman is constructed to international standards, is surveyed regularly by the Federal Department of Transport and is properly manned by qualified personnel. It has been proven in the past to be intrinsically safe. Proper operational procedures are followed, and as a consequence such vessels are regarded as being safe from a navigation point of view. However, having regard to the tragedy that took place, the Department has taken special steps to review the safety procedures with the shipping line that operates in Bass Strait. We are taking particular notice of the inquiries which are being conducted overseas to make sure that, when the coronial inquiry is completed, the Government is able to learn from any of the tragic experiences on that occasion. Proper operational and safety measures will be kept under review by the Australian Government.