Bass Strait Passenger Ships
and Passenger/Vehicle Ferries
Spirit of Tasmania II passes Point Lonsdale Lighthouse while entering
Port Phillip Bay from Bass Strait January 14 2010
Pictures can be clicked on to advance to next
Strait is situated between the Australian States of Victoria and Tasmania.
Average depth is about
It is named after early explorer George Bass. Bass was a surgeon aboard HMS Reliance.
He rowed in a whaleboat, with a few others, in January 1798, from Sydney
and discovered a large bay which he named Westernport. Later that same year, he and
Lieut. Matthew Flinders, both of the H.M.S. Reliance, sailed through Bass Strait.
Below: 1 George Bass Marker
at Bass Victoria. Click on for enlargement
2 Bass Strait Map showing
Melbourne to Devonport ferry route
was formerly a Tasmanian Steam Navigation Co. ship. It was transferred
from the Sydney-Hobart service to the Bass Strait
service and run by the Union Steamship Co. as contribution with Loongana,
to the Service operated from 1921 with Huddart Parker Co.,
which contributed Nairana to the service. These Companies together
formed Tasmanian Steamers Pty Ltd
of 2448 tons, was built
in 1904 by William Denny and Brothers
Dumbarton, and was the first turbine steamer to
operate in the Southern Hemisphere.
leaving Tasmania 1940s
The maiden voyage of Nairana to Tasmania, was in April 1921.
She was a twin screw turbine steamer of 3042 tons and
shared the run with with Loongana
until Loongana and Oonah were retired in 1935.
During World War II when Taroona was on war service
duty in the North, Nairana was in very high demand and made
three return trips per week.
More Nairana Information
Pty Ltd, was formed in 1921 and Oonah was operated along with
by that Company until 1935 when Oonah
and Loongana were replaced by the then new Taroona. Taroona chiefly ran the service
apart from a period during World War II when Nairana took over
while Taroona was utilised as a troop ship. Taroona was replaced
by Princess of Tasmania in 1959 which was operated by the Australian Government
owned Australian National Line (ANL). The ANL also had the Empress of Australia built
for the Sydney-Hobart run, as well as the Australia trader which operated for some
time with the Princess of Tasmania as traffic increased. The larger Empress was eventually
transferred to the Melbourne-Devonport run, and the Princess of Tasmania and Australia trader
were retired from the run, the latter being taken over by the white. The Tasmanian Government
took over the Bass Strait passenger shipping with the Abel Tasman in mid 1985 and have
been in charge of the service since with later ships being the First Spirit of Tasmania,
which was replaced by Spirit of Tasmania I and Spirit of Tasmania II.
Further details are below.
Top: Taroona departing Station Pier Port Melbourne 1950s
Lower: Method of loading/unloading motor vehicles:
Taroona at Station Pier
Information about Taroona
Top: Princess of Tasmania arriving at Devonport early 1960s
middle: Princess of Tasmania and Bass trader at Webb Dock
Lower: Princess of Tasmania at Sea
Bottom: View from Devonport Railway Station Information
about Princess of Tasmania
M.V Australian Trader was built at Newcastle N.S.W. at the State Dockyard for service with the
Australian National Line
and was on the Tasmania run between 1969 and 1976 after which it became part of the Navy's fleet
as H.M.A.S. Jervis Bay. The top picture shows the Australian Trader at Burnie Tasmania while
the lower picture shows her at Station Pier Port Melbourne while in service with the Navy as
a training and transport ship.
HMAS Jervis Bay was decommissioned in 1994, sold, and operated beween Greece and Turkey
and later in the Persian Gulf before being sold for scrap in 2004.
More information at
The pictures above:
(1) Spirit II Point Lonsdale
(2) View of Spirit II and Westgate Bridge
(3) Taken from a lookout Arthurs Seat near Dromana
(4) Spirit of Tasmania 1 arriving Devonport October 2008
(5) Spirit of Tasmania I at Devonport showing the upper and lower vehicle ramps
(6) Spirit of Tasmania II having turned, commences the overnight crossing
of Bass Strait October 2008
(7) A few weeks later the days are longer and departure time is before sunset
the bow thrusters help turn the ship
(8) Sailing out of the Mersey River at Devonport
(9 and 10) Spirit of Tasmania II Port Melbourne September 2002 before the
upper ramp was constructed
(11) Spirit of Tasmania I May 2005 at Station Pier Port Melbourne.
Two ferries, Spirit of Tasmania 1 and 2, replaced the first
Spirit of Tasmania
in September 2002, bringing a nightly service each way.
Although normal service schedule is for crossings of 11 hours
at around 23 knots average, while
each ship makes two 9 hour crossings of Bass
Strait within 24 hours at peak times
at some 28 knots.
is some of the general information about Spirit of Tasmania 1 and 2, mainly
from a fact sheet available to the public on an open day.
Their builder was Kvaerner Masa-Yards (Finland) in 1998. Their original ports were
Ancona Italy, and Patras Greece, and they were originally named Superfast 1
and Superfast 2 and each has a gross tonnage of 29,338. Their first crossing of
Bass Strait was in September 2002. Total Lane length on the vehicle decks is approx.
2,565 which would accomodate about 513 vehicles each 5 metres in length.
has 222 cabins. Eight cabins are deluxe; 153 are four berth with 72 of these
having portholes, while there are 59 twin berth cabins with portholes
and two easy access cabins for wheelchairs.
Each cabin has private bathroom failities.
As well, there are a total of 270 cruise seats and recliners.
Normal schedule is for a sailing time of 11 hours at about 23 knots, however
in busy times, the schedule is for two sailings, (a return journey within a 24
hour period) which is called a double sailing, and speed can be in increased
to some 27 knots for a crossing of 9 hours.
Each Spirit of Tasmania is powered by four Wärtsilä NSD 16ZA V40S diesel engines
to two controllable pitch propellers supplied by KaMeWa.
The engines run at constant speed with the speed of the ship being determined
by the blade angles on the variable pitch propellers which are
powered through reduction gearboxes with a ratio of
510 (engine revolutions per minute)
to 147 (propeller revolutions per minute)
i.e. Load on the engines and accordingly speed of the ships
is controlled by varying propellor blade pitch.
The main engines are Wartsila/New Sulzer
V16 turbo charged diesels with each engine capable of producing 10,560 Kilowatts
with a total of some 42,240.
Engines are under full load on the double crossings.
Heavy thick 'bunker' oil is used with some
seven tonnes per hour being burned.
At sea, power is generated from two shaft generators, operating at 1,200 RPM
and in port it is generated from three
Wärtsilä Vasa 9R20 generators, each capable
of providing 1,460kW
while electrical generation requirements are some 3,000 kilowatts.
The ships each have two Blohm + Voss supplied,
anti-vortex tip retractable fin stabilizers,
each being eight metres long and
positioned midship on each vessel.
Also supplied by KaMeWa and installed for
extra manoeuvrability, are three 1,000kW side thrusters;
two are positioned forward, and one is positioned aft.
Spirit of Tasmania III at Port Melbourne - August 09 2006.
Devonport - Sydney run, SOT3 was temporarily replacing one of the
regular Melbourne - Devonport ships due to drydocking. The Sydney
to Devonport run has been discontinued
Before the introduction of the present Spirit of Tasmania ferries
illustrated above, two High speed catamaran services were operated
to Tasmania. One service,
was from Port Melbourne in conjunction with the
first Spirit of Tasmania in the busy season, and the other was
a service between Port Welshpool
Victoria and Georgetown Tasmania, with the Seacat, also in the busy warmer months.
These fast catamarans, as well as others, were built in Hobart Tasmania.
The picture above shows the 'Seacat' arriving at port Welshpool.
The crossing between Port Welshpool and Georgetown took about five hours.
entrance to Port Phillip Bay is recognized as being capable of becoming
one of the most dangerous sections of water in the world.
The water depth, changes dramatically between Port Phillip
Bay and Bass Strait, and fast flowing tides over the uneven seabed
between the deep and shallower water, combined with bad
weather can create very dangerous conditions.
A large number of shipwrecks have occurred in the loction.
Many have come to grief on
Corsair Rock before and after the grounding of
SS Time in 1949. Corsair Rock was named after the pilot
vessel which discovered it about 1853 after a search owing to
several large vessels having been damaged or lost. The rock, lies
beneath the surface is reported in one source to be about a kilometre
west of Point Nepean. and at low water it has less than four meters
of water over it.
There has been established, a system of lights at Queenscliff within
the bay. Ships coming into the bay keep two lights in at this location
in line in order to to keep to the middle of the channel.
Tidal flow in and out of Port Phillip Bay is very strong at its peak,
between 6 and 9 knots; and combined with
gale force winds which occur, particularly if on the darkest of nights,
this stretch of water is easily turned into a navigational nightmare
for those unfamiliar. Ships sailing in or out of the Bay with
the tide in their favour, can appear as if to moving really swiftly,
while some sailing in or out against the tide can sometimes appear to
be, practically not be moving. Pilot vessels are based at nearby Queenscliff
and transfer pilots to incoming ships and retreives them from outgoing
ships. transfers are made a few miles or so out into Bass Strait.
Due to the narrow entrance to Port Phillip Bay, and the huge volume of
water the bay contains, together with the inadequate time tidal water has
in and out to equalise the depths, the inner bay never achieves the high and
low tide variation of Bass Strait.
At the top of the bay, tidal variation is significantly less than
at Port Phillip Heads. More tidal information at
Sea Pilots website
the "roll-on roll-off"
Princess of Tasmania took over in 1959,
Taroona provided generally, a twice weekly return passenger service
across Bass Strait between Melbourne Victoria, and Tasmania. Ports in
Tasmania it called at, were Burnie, Devonport and Beauty Point - in the
Tamar River some 30 miles from Launceston. Taroona, was built in
Glasgow in 1934 by Alexander Stephen &: Sons,
and commenced its time on Bass Strait in 1935 replacing the
It was of 4,286 tons with
twin steam turbines. Taroona berthed regularly at Princess Pier at Port
Melbourne but also occasionally used Station Pier -- both at the northern
end of Port Phillip bay - as in the picture above which was taken at
Station Pier -- and North wharf in the Yarra river. Taroona
was used as a troop ship during World War and ventured at least as far
north as New Guinea. (See the link to further information - near the
bottom of this page). It was a dark green ship with a yellow band around.
Motor cars were lifted into two holds for transportation, using the two
on board cranes. Vehicles were also carried as deck cargo near the
back of the ship in busy periods. Taroona could turn and berth of its own
accord. Tugs were used only on rare occasions in bad weather and in
confined berths such as in the Yarra river. Recalled on one occasion
for example, is that the steam tug "James Paterson" of about 1900
vintage, assisted it to turn when sailing from 17 North wharf.
As well as the two anchors up front, it also had an anchor
at its stern.
Princess of Tasmania was owned and operated
by the Australian National Line. The 230 miles between
Melbourne and Devonport, over
which the ship sailed three return trips per week was appropriately
named the "Searoad".
This was along Port Phillip Bay, over Bass Strait and along the
Mersey River at Devonport to it's other specially constructed berth.
At the time of introduction in 1959, it was reportedly
the longest drive-on drive-off service in the world. The
Princess of Tasmania was 4,619 tons and carried 334 passengers, 178 in
cabins and 156 in lounge chair type accomodation. The seating
accomodation was in three sections,
Two of these were situated -- one on each side
of the funnel, while a bigger saloon was situated just behind
the front full width deck. It was built at the State Dockyard at
Newcastle New South Wales and had a draught of 15 feet which allowed it
to use the more direct shallow channel at the southern end of Port
Phillip bay to and from the heads (as did Taroona),
which saved considerable time and distance. It also carried some
100 cars and caravans plus commercial vehicles and mail van.
It was a twin screw motor vessel, and had four Ruston engines which
according to information at hand, Port of Melbourne magazine of that era),
which provided 2,880 horsepower, for all services including the side
thrust bow propeller. A reference to the type of main engines is
"Ferry to Tasmania", a link to which is in the
links section above. According to this source,
the main engines of the Princess of Tasmania, were two nine cylinder
two stroke Nohab Polar type diesels each of 8,600 Brake Horsepower,
built by Nybqvist and Holm
of trollhattan Norway.
Princess of Tasmania remained in service on the Bass Strait run until
sold in 1972. She had a list of different owners and consequently had
ten names over her 46 years of existence and was scrapped at Alang,
India in 2005. More at Wikipedia
of Australia was a passenger / vehicle roll on roll off ferry
which originally plied between Sydney and Hobart Tasmania
three times every two weeks for seven years.
It had a gross tonage of 12,037 tons and was 445 feet in length,
and was the largest vessel of this
type in the world when built while its route was one of the longest
open water routes in the world for a vessel of this type.
It was built at the Cockatoo
Island Dockyard as ship number 220, for the government owned Australian
National Line (ANL). Construction started on September 11 1962.
It was launched on January 18 1965, and was completed on
January 8 1965.
It was transferred to the Melbourne to Devonport run in 1972. Original
passenger capacity was 250 in cabins but capacity was
increased to some 450, with the addition of about 200 seats for the
Melbourne - Devonport overnight service.
It could take about 158 vehicles including many semi trailers.
The 'Empress' was replaced by the Abel Tasman.
It was sold and renamed Royal Pacific. and
sank in the Malacca Strait, in 1991 after colliding with
a Taiwanese fishing vessel.
M.V. Abel Tasman
Tasman was built at Nobiskrug Rendsberg in 1975 for the TT line Germany
and sailed under the name, Nils Holgersson until 1985.
She was renamed Abel Tasman
before commencing running across Bass Strait for its new owners - the
Tasmanian transport Commission in July 1985.
It was a twin screw, roll-on roll-off
passenger and road vehicle ferry with hydraulic operated bow doors
and stern doors which enabled fast loading and unloading. Bridge height
above water was
17m (metres) and the Load Draft was 6.19m. Gross Tonnage (volume)
was 19,212 tonnes while the load weight was 12,128 tonnes. Vehicle deck
capacity was 234 car equivalents / 44.61m container equivalents.
It had two main diesel engines each with 16 cylinders, and each developing
10,400 horsepower giving a total of 20,800. Propellers were four blade
variable pitch at 242 rpm. through two reduction gears and two
switchable clutches. Each main engine drove a shaft generator each
being of 1125kva. In addition, there were four diesel alternators - each
1160 hp at 900 rpm @ 1000kva, and one diesel
alternator @ 310hp 1,800rpm @ 225kva.
There were two bow thrust propellers @ 11 tonnes.
Stabilising plant - 2 fins each seven square metres, 5 metres long.
Other information is as follows: 1 electro hydraulic twin steering gear,
twin rudders. Car platform deck (raisable) throughout vehicle deck
including fore and aft tilt ramp decks. 10 motor life boats
2 @ 60 persons. 8 @ 83 persons. 21 liferafts,
inflatable, each 25 persons. 2 passenger lifts, each 6 persons,
1 goods lift. - air conditioning plant - firefighting plant. Monitoring
on bridge of fire alarms, watertight doors, fire doors, general alarm
via public address system. Gyro compass, satelite navigator, 3 radars,
automatic pilot, wireless installation, 2 VHF radios, echo sounder,
vehicle deck security system. Engines could be controlled from the
Bridge or by command to engine room control center in the engine room.
Service speed was up to 18 knots and the time taken for the berth
to berth distance of 232 nautical miles was generally a little over
14 hours. Three return Bass Strait crossings per week were
made departure time being 6:PM (1800). Facilities included 3 restaurants,
children's play room and nursery, swimming pool, saunas, shop, medical
service, live entertainment in the main lounge, and a mini cinema.
There were 2 and 4 berth cabins hostel accomodation, deluxe suites.
Abel Tasman was 149 metres in length and 23.5 metres in width and could
carry up to 919 passengers on four accomodation deck
levels. It was replaced by the
first Spirit of Tasmania in 1993 and
was sold in 1994 to Ventouris Ferries and renamed Pollex.
It was later sold again.
Mostly from TT Line's Abel Tasman
Welcome Aboard brochure
First Spirit of Tasmania
first spirit of Tasmania
was white. This has now been replaced by the two present
ships -- Spirit of Tasmania I and II in red livery.
The following information was
available on board the first S.O.T. and applied when the ship
was working over Bass Strait.
Owner: Tasmanian transport Commission;
Manager TT Line;
Builder: Seebeckwerdt AF, Bremerhaven, West Germany;
Year built: 1986;
Ship Type: Twin Screw Ro/Ro
& passenger Ferry;
Keel laid: July 1985;
Commissioned: 30 May 1986;
Regulations: Solas Convention 1974 SSV, SBG;
Class: GL + 100A 4 E2 + MC
E2 AUT Z;
Overall length: 161.52 metres;
Overall width: 27.6 metres;
Length between perpendiculars: 150.67 metres;
Beam: 27.60 metres;
Summer freeboard draught: 6.20 metres;
Deadweight: 4.110 tonnes;
Gross tonnage:31.356 Gross tonnage;
Engines: 19,600KW (26,400 hp);
Capacity ( subject to reconfiguration prior
to commencement )
Maximum trucks: 118;
Maximum cars: 550;
Maximum cars with 40 trailers: 300;
Berths with facilities: 1,194;
Berths without facilities (including hostel): 100;
Total berths: 1,294:
Public rooms ( seating capacity subject to
some reconfiguration prior to commencement )
Cafeteria/Coffee Shop: 335;
A La Carte: 375;
Separate conference room: 200;
Gaming room: 50;
Distance berth to berth Melbourne - Devonport =
232 nautical miles = 429 km
Heads to Heads = 190 nautical miles = 352 km
( 1/n/m = 6,080 ft = 1,852 m = 1.85km )
( 1 statute mile = 1.6 km )
Station Pier to Heads = 42 nautical miles
East Devonport to River Entrance - 1 mile