The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has welcomed the North East Shipping Management Plan, released by the Australian Government today, saying it underscores the need for a viable Australian shipping industry.
The plan, released by Minister for Infrastructure Warren Truss, highlights the ongoing importance of adequately managing shipping through the Great Barrier Reef, Torres Strait and the Coral Sea.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) Chief Executive and North-East Shipping Management Group Chair Mick Kinley said in the report: “The ocean waters of north-eastern Australia are unquestionably one of the most important natural areas of Australia.
“The broader Australian community has an expectation that shipping is managed without incident or adverse environmental effects. National coordination and leadership is therefore critical in developing and implementing integrated approaches to address common objectives.”
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said the retention and improvement of the 2012 Coastal Trading Act by the Abbott Government would protect Australian jobs, the maritime skills base and the environment.
“Any sensible reading of this document shows the value of retaining Australia’s coastal shipping industry,” Mr Crumlin said.
“Local knowledge goes a long way when it comes to navigating Australia’s coastline and waterways – and that includes Australian seafarers, pilots and harbour masters.
“We need to encourage the development of maritime clusters to ensure an adequate maritime skills base is maintained in Australia into the future.”
The Chinese-registered bulk coal and oil tanker Shen Neng 1 ran aground on the Douglas Shoal reef near Yeppoon in April 2010 causing a three-kilometre long, 400,000 square metre scar on the Great Barrier Reef.
In addition to a $34 million cost to clean up the mess, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said in February it was unlikely the coral will recover, while the number of coal ships through the reef are expected to double by 2020.
“We owe it to our kids to make sure we leave the Great Barrier Reef in pristine condition,” Mr Crumlin said.
“What we don’t want to see is more Flag of Convenience (FOC) ships, with their poor standards and exploited crews, take over our ports and displace Australian vessels.”
Minister Truss last month signaled an end to cabotage, which is the rules that level the playing field for Australian ships on our coast, using data which has since been discredited.
“This could directly impact around 2,000 direct jobs and up to 8,000 associated jobs so 10,000 Aussie jobs could be on the chopping block,” Mr Crumlin said.
"Protecting the future of Australian shipping should enjoy bi-partisan political support, as it has done in the past and I urge the Abbott Government to keep a regulatory framework that supports Australian ships.
“Cabotage is not industry assistance in that no taxpayer funds are directed to the Australian shipping industry.
“Shipping is essential to national security and we cannot allow essential skills to be placed in the hands of non-Australian interests.”