As Australia’s seafarers celebrate World Maritime Day, the number of Australian-flagged ships working the coast has sunk to an historic low.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) said despite the continuing trading growth at Australian ports, the size of Australian trading fleet has shrunk to just 96 ships, a decline of 15 per cent over the past eight years.
Worse, of the 96 ships, only 60 per cent are currently Australian registered and crewed. The past few months also saw the decommissioning of two Australian vessels, the Alltrans and Seakap.
MUA Sydney branch secretary Warren Smith said the Australian shipping industry was “in trouble”.
“An island needs ships and Australia needs a vital and economically strong shipping industry. It’s clear that our island’s proud tradition of seafaring is on its last legs unless it gets the support it deserves from the Government,” Mr Smith said.
In stark contrast, the number of voyages carrying cargo between Australian ports undertaken by foreign-flagged vessels has surged by 56.4 per cent between 2005-06 and 2006-07.
Mr Smith said loopholes in shipping regulation were exacerbating the Australian vessel trough, permitting the dramatic increase in the use of foreign ships.
“The government review of shipping policy and regulation is a critical step towards addressing these issues and ensuring the revitalisation of Australian shipping.
“The MUA will be looking for strong recommendations from the inquiry when it hands down its recommendations in mid-October,” he said.
An independent review of Australian shipping was conducted in 2003. This March, following a key recommendation of the review, Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese commissioned an inquiry into coastal shipping policy and regulation.