Truss unveils proposed shipping reforms

Regional development minister outlines plans for coastal shipping reforms

Truss unveils proposed shipping reforms
Warren Truss hopes to reform Australia's domestic shipping regulations


The issue has been simmering away since the 2013 change of federal government, but infastructure and regional development minister Warren Truss has now formally committed himself to changing domestic shipping rules.

He outlined his plans to a Shipping Australia luncheon yesterday.

They include a new, "much simpler" permit system that will allow for unlimited domestic voyages for a period of up to 12 months.

"There will be no requirement to nominate voyages upfront for approval and, as a result, there will be no need to seek variations to cargo type or volumes carried or the dates voyages are undertaken," Truss says.

Those ships that spend more than 183 days in a year will be required to adhere to current Australian wages and working conditions for their crews. 

Additionally, these ships will be required to employ an Australian master or chief mate, and an Australian chief engineer or first engineer.

"We recognise that Australian skilled seafarers are renowned for their expertise throughout the world," Truss says.

"We need to maintain these key maritime skills in Australia and ensure we are training the engineers, masters and pilots of tomorrow."

All coastal trading ships will continue to be subject to port controls administered by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

"If you do the wrong thing, regardless of the flag your ship carries, AMSA will detain your ship until it is fixed, and if you still don’t get the message they can direct you out of Australian ports and not to come back."

The government will also remove requirements for collective agreements between vessel owners and their crews.

Truss says the reforms aim to revitalise domestic shipping in Australia, which has been in a "long-term downward spiral" since increased regulation was enacted in 2012.

"We need to turn that around. The common sense reforms we are implementing will do just that," he says.

"Cheaper freight costs will help the viability of manufacturers and primary producers and, as these industries grow, so will their demand for shipping services.

"Greater choice between shipping companies will lead to better services being provided to customers.

"Increased shipping volumes mean more landside maritime jobs."

The required legislation is scheduled to be tabled in parliament during the winter term.

While it will have the backing of the government, the Labor opposition and Australian Greens have vowed to fight the changes.

The Maritime Union of Australia, which protested outside the Shipping Australia event yesterday, is also lining up against any reform of the current rules.

"These changes could spell disaster on a number of fronts: maritime jobs, skills, fuel security, national security; and pose a threat to the environment," national secretary Paddy Crumlin told the protest yesterday.

"The changes could directly impact around 2000 direct jobs and up to 8,000 associated jobs."



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