Three companies have been shortlisted to bid to run ferry services between Kangaroo Island and mainland South Australia.
Current service providers Kangaroo Island SeaLink have put in a successful bid, as has Peninsula Searoad Transport that operates the Queenscliff to Sorrento ferry on Port Phillip Bay.
The third tender is from the Kinetic Holding Company/Oceanex consortium.
Kinetic operates Australia and New Zealand's biggest bus network, including the soon to be fully electric airside and shuttle bus service at the Adelaide airport.
The Australian-based public transport company was formerly known as AATS Group prior to August 2019, a spokesperson said.
Late last year, the state government called for Expressions of Interest from companies to run the ROPAX roll-on, roll-off vehicles and passenger ferry services between Penneshaw and Cape Jervis for up to 25 years.
The contract will be for an initial 15-year period with a further two five-year extensions based on the successful company meeting a strict set of criteria, including high levels of service performance.
Kangaroo Island Connect, which currently operates a passenger-only ferry on the route, said it was not interested in the ROPAX contract.
Managing director David Harris said his company would continue to focus on its passenger and car hire model, and was now also looking at a freight-only service using a second vessel.
On a positive note, KI Connect was now working cooperatively with SeaLink, which he said was transferring overflow passengers.
"We look forward to continue working with whoever wins the contract," Mr Harris said.
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Corey Wingard, said the process was about ensuring the best deal for South Australians and that Kangaroo Islanders and those that visit the Island get the best service possible.
"SeaLink currently provide a valued service to the Island but this process is to ensure we get the highest quality service possible for locals and tourists in the future," Mr Wingard said.
"It will also provide certainty tor the successful tenderer to allow them to plan their business to continue growing and improving this vital service.
"We will now progress to the next phase of this procurement process which will allow us to continue to drive and improve this vital service."
All conforming submissions in the Expression of Interest stage of the process were evaluated on criteria that included customer, community and tourism service offerings and experience; operational and asset management capability; and working with government and stakeholders.
The Invitation to Supply (ITS) process will run until September/October and the contract is aimed to be awarded by the end of the year.
The Department for Infrastructure and Transport has established a dedicated Kangaroo Island Ferry Service (KIFS) program team, with specialist advisors, to ensure the best outcomes for the people and businesses of South Australia.
Kangaroo Island SeaLink has been providing ferry services between the island and the mainland since 1995, following the state government's withdrawal from providing services.
The current service is provided under an agreement, which has been extended on multiple occasions, between the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and SeaLink, which enables priority berthing rights for Sealink and the Penneshaw and Cape Jervis harbours.
The current agreement expires on June 30, 2024.