The Australian Government has indicated that it supports recommendations by the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee to pass the Coastal Trading amendment bill before parliament.

Simplifying Coastal Trading Regulation and Red Tape

The bill would remove the five-voyage minimum requirement to apply for a temporary licence, streamline the processes for making changes to temporary licences by creating a single variation process, amend voyage notification requirements so notifications are only required when voyage details have changed from those approved on the licence, and amend the tolerance provisions for temporary licence voyages to better reflect industry practice.

Expand Coverage of the Coastal Trading Act

The bill would amend the definition of coastal trading to encompass voyages commencing and concluding at the same port, ships engaged in dry-docking and include voyages between ports and other defined places in Australian waters such as offshore facilities.

Provide Clarity on Technical Issues and Reduce Administrative Impact

The bill would also make minor technical amendments to several definitions in the Coastal Trading Act that require clarification to assist with administration. Additionally, it would require temporary licence holders to provide a vessel’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO) number to assist with easy identification of vessels and finally it would allow for temporary licences to be issued in emergency situations.

Decision Welcomed by Ports Australia

Ports Australia chief executive Mike Gallacher believes that the nation needs a coastal shipping reform and that the issue is gaining momentum and he welcomed the decision of the Government to support the amended bill. He said that using the ocean is a smart way of keeping costs associated with freight Australia down and that this will contribute towards the lowest possible cost of living. “Coastal Shipping will benefit Australians both regionally and in the city, the reform has the support of both business and now also government. “If the cost of living in Australia is going to stay as low as possible across the board then we need to look at smart reforms that reduce red tape and allow business small and large to provide consumers with more for less. “Coastal shipping is a smart reform, it will open up our blue highway which costs nothing to build, run or maintain allowing Australia’ supply chain to be more flexible and carry more capacity for less. “The reforms are a step in the right direction but there is more work to be done before the full benefits of coastal shipping and Australia’s blue highway can be realised for Australians. Gallacher finished by saying “It is our hope that now with the governments support the Senate can look at the merits of this reform for the supply chain and the benefits it will bring for Australians and pass these amendments without delay.”

Strong Opposition from the Labor Party

The response from the Labor Party made it clear that they oppose the amended bill altogether. “The bill currently before the Parliament will only accelerate the industry’s decline, eventually consigning Australia’s status as a proud maritime nation to the history pages,” said the opposition response. “That would be an unbelievable development given we are an island continent, almost all of our imports and exports are transported in the hull of ships, and even more significantly, a tenth of global sea trade flows through our ports.”