Ship Reform A Matter Of Life And Death

Reform of the shipping and ports industries is now a matter of life and death, union warns - for waterside workers and for our merchant marine


Shipping reform is urgent - for worker safety, national security, our environment and economy.

Kevin Bracken, MUA national councilor and Victoria Branch secretary made the call at his speech to the APAC Maritime Safety Conference in Melbourne this morning.

"Although the Labor Government and Minister Albanese in particular have given a policy commitment to revitalise Australian shipping, there has been no concrete action to date.," he said a comprehensive speech entitled Maritime Safety in the context of reform in the Australian Maritime Industries.

"The timing of such reform is now urgent," he added. "Australian shipping is at a critical juncture and Government action or inaction could make or break the industry.  It is an industry that is fast losing its critical mass."

 "Stevedoring and freight transport are high risk occupations as demonstrated by the number of deaths and serious injuries," he said, citing the recent death of a waterside worker in the port of Brisbane.  "The initiatives taken by Safe Work Australia in nationalising waterfront safety guidance material for container and steel loading/discharge; the initiative by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) to review Marine Orders Part 32 (Cargo handling) and putting in place Memorandums of Understanding between AMSA and State/NT OHS agencies and the MUAs own National Safety Code are all positive steps to improve stevedoring safety, but more needs to be done. 

The Australian Transport Union Federation submits that the National Ports Strategy provide for establishment of a Ports Safety Consultative Council, to be funded by a levy on containers, to drive continuous improvement in port safety."

In the shipping industry Kevin Bracken said a key reform required was the Budgetary funding on shipping industry OHS education and awareness raising aimed at educing workers' compensation costs in the industry.

"In the offshore oil and gas sector, we are working closely with the Government in responding to the Review of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority (NOPSA) and the Offshore Petroleum Regulatory Review that arose from a fatality on an FPSO in December 2008 and a major safety incident on a drilling rig during the same cyclone," he said.