Shipping to Cast Off Red Tape and Set Sail for Productivity Boost

Media Release

WT054/2014

08 April 2014

The Australian Government is inviting input on reforms to revitalise coastal shipping in Australia, with the release of its Regulation of Coastal Shipping Options Paper today.

Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss told the 2014 International Association of Ports and Harbors Mid-Term Conference in Sydney today that removing unnecessary regulatory burdens will boost competitiveness in the struggling industry.

“Right now our domestic shipping industry is treading water, bound in red tape and unable to be competitive both domestically and internationally,” Mr Truss said.

“If allowed to continue under Labor's tangle of dead weights, the industry will sink to the bottom of the harbour.

“As an island nation, Australia's competitiveness, to an ever-growing extent, depends on local industries exporting our world-class products overseas in the most cost-effective way possible.

“Our domestic freight task is growing rapidly and shipping should be carrying a larger share of the load.

“This options paper is the first step in unlocking the regulatory shackles on shippers and boosting Australia's competitiveness. The Paper also includes a discussion on regulatory settings for the cruise industry.

“We will take a measured and careful approach to this process and I am determined to ensure we rebalance the system to support Australia's shipping needs.”

The shipping industry currently handles 99 percent of Australia's international trade and volume is expected to double by 2029–30. Like our international trade, coastal shipping is an important part of Australia's domestic freight task, comprising 20 percent of movements.

Mr Truss said ensuring that Australia has adequate transport links to accommodate this boom is essential for an economy geared for growth.

“There is a growing disparity between the cost of shipping domestically and the cost of shipping to Australia from overseas,” Mr Truss explained.

“Too often we hear that it is cheaper to freight goods from overseas than ship them from one Australian port to another.

“Meanwhile, we have reached a situation where the number of Australian registered ships has halved over the last decade, with demand outstripping supply.

“In 2002–03 there were 33 Australian registered vessels with a deadweight tonnage of 2,000 tonnes or more in our major trading fleet. As of December 2013 there were just 16 such vessels.

“Labor created a second register (the Australian International Shipping Register) as an alternative for Australian shipowners and operators who predominantly engage in the international trades, but there are no vessels on it. It has been a complete failure.

“A viable, vibrant shipping industry is essential to our national prosperity and it is critical that our transport links are working at optimal capacity and efficiently.”

The review will seek input on all areas of regulation of coastal trading.

Submissions close Friday 31 May 2014.

The Options Paper: Approaches to regulating coastal shipping in Australia is available at: www.infrastructure.gov.au/maritime/business/coastal_trading/review/index.aspx