New life for coastal shipping: Australian Government plan announced

The Australian Government has announced plans that are likely to have a big effect on coastal shipping
The Australian Government has announced plans that are likely to have a big effect on coastal shipping

Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss outlined the Government’s plan to simplify coastal shipping regulation at a luncheon of shipping companies, unions and maritime stakeholders, hosted by Shipping Australia Limited.

“These changes are urgently needed,” Shipping Australia CEO, Rod Nairn said. “Moving long-haul freight by sea is four times more environmentally efficient than rail, and twenty times more efficient than road, in terms of green-house gas emissions.

“We can’t meet Australia’s future demand for domestic freight movement by road and rail without billions of dollars of investment in infrastructure; it is already congested. But there is excess capacity in ships plying the Australian coast and in all our major ports and stevedores. It makes absolute economic sense to maximise the use of this existing capacity.”

The Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping Act) 2012 has been a comprehensive failure: there are less Australian flag ships, those that remain are 50 per cent older than the global average, and the amount of domestic cargo carried by sea has declined. Even raw materials, such as timber, nickel ore and cement are now being sourced from overseas because it is cost-prohibitive to move it from Australian mines to Australian refineries.

The plan outlined by Minister Truss will replace the existing tiered licence system with a single permit for all vessel types, reduce reporting requirements, and protect vessels from importation under the Customs Act 1901. This will promote the use of Australian dry- docking facilities and grow jobs in the ship repair industry.

In response to concerns raised about maintaining maritime skills and Australian jobs, Minister Truss responded that cheaper freight will make Australian products more competitive with international imports, thereby increasing demand and promoting creation of Australian jobs. Increased shipping volumes will lead to more landside maritime jobs as well.

Australian wages will be preserved for ships operating on the Australian coast for more than 183 days, and there will be a requirement for minimum number of Australian crew. The Australian Port State Control regime already applies to all vessels visiting Australia and will ensure that safety standards are preserved.

“These measures are most welcome and will benefit Australian primary producers, manufacturers and consumers who have suffered from import substitution or increased costs as a result of the current regulations,” Nairn said.

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