Domestic sea freight remains in a slumber


Good news from BITRE report comes in minor doses

Domestic sea freight remains in a slumber
Part of the report’s cover

 

Against the odds, certain increases have occurred in domestic freight carried by sea – yet road and rail operators will fail to quake in their boots.

Nor is there any rush to flag coastal ships under the Australian regime.  In fact the chronic opposite trend still holds sway.

Rather foreign-flagged ships on temporary licences have the metaphorical wind in their sails.

The rise is recorded in the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics’ latest Australian sea freight 2016-17 report and little reported there shows shipping challenging land freight transport options.

The report shows coastal trading licences were required for all interstate coastal shipping. The total tonnage carried under licence was 35.2 million tonnes, an increase of 2.5 per cent on 2015-16.

This represented 67.7 per cent of all loaded coastal freight in 2016-17. The remaining 16.8 million tonnes of coastal freight was intrastate cargo not carried under licence.

Temporary licences saw 23.8 million tonnes of cargo carried in 2016–17 under, up 18.8 per cent from 2015-16.

Of that, 9.9 million tonnes was carried by Australian-flagged vessels under general licence, a 5.3 per cent fall from 2015-16, and 1.5 million tonnes by vessels with transitional general licences, down 60.8 per cent from 2015-16.


Read how Toll followed SeaRoad in boosting Bass Strait capacity, here


The freight task performed under temporary licences was 58 billion tonne-kilometres – tonnes of cargo loaded times the distance shipped) – a 14.1 per cent rise from 2015–16.

"Temporary licences accounted for 53.7 per cent of the coastal freight task (which includes cargo not carried under licence) in 2016-17, a marked increase from the 46 per cent in 2015-16," BITRE says.

The freight task under general licence was 5.8 billion tonne-kilometres, down 19.3 per cent from 2015-16. Transitional general licences saw 7.6 billion tonne-kilometres in 2016–17 shifted, a drop of 37.9 per cent from 2015-16.

In 2016-17, there were 143 ships in the Australian trading fleet, with a total deadweight tonnage of 6.5 million tonnes and total gross tonnage of 4.7 million. The total deadweight tonnage and gross tonnage of the Australian trading fleet increased 10.7 and 8.4 per cent per annum in trend terms respectively over the five years to 2016-17.

Over the same time period the number of vessels rose 2 per cent a year in trend terms, "meaning that the average size of ships in the Australian trading fleet has increased over time".

"The increased number of vessels in the Australian trading fleet over the five years to 2016-17 was driven by increasing numbers of major overseas registered international trading vessels and minor Australian registered trading vessels," the report’s authors state.

"However the increase in deadweight tonnage and gross tonnage was driven largely by major overseas registered international trading vessels, particularly bulk carriers and hence is likely related to increased dry bulk exports."

The number of major (deadweight tonnage greater than 2,000 tonnes) Australian registered ships with a general licence increased by one to 15 in 2016-17 with the addition of the bulk carrier Donnacona.

Another change was the replacement of Searoad Merseywith the larger Searoad Mersey II.

This compares to 19 major Australian registered ships with a coastal trade licence in 2011–12. The total deadweight tonnage and gross tonnage of these ships declined by 16.2 and 9.7 per cent per annum in trend terms respectively between 2011–12 and 2016–17.

Australian ports handled 103.9 million tonnes of coastal freight, both loaded and discharged, during 2016-17, a 0.2 per cent increase on 2015-16 and an average annual trend increase of 0.7 per cent over the five years to 2016-17.

Measured in tonne-kilometre terms, the freight task of loaded coastal cargo was 107.8 billion, a 2.3 per cent decrease on 2015-16 but an average annual trend increase of 1.2 per cent over the five years to 2016-17.

 

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