Sunday 21st Jan, 2018

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Coastal Shipping Reform

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SIR,

I have read through the Coastal Trading Amendment Bill 2017 from the point of view of a concerned marine pilot. I was hoping to see some provisions to retain an Australian merchant fleet, tax exemptions for Australians forced to work overseas on minimal pay and a commitment to invest in the training of future harbour masters, marine pilots, surveyors, college lecturers, VTS managers, salvage masters, marine superintendents, cargo planners and many more shore based jobs that require experience working at sea.

Surely industry is starting to ask where these people will come from.

I have been writing to the Minister of Transport, Senator Chester for some time and I will share with you the feedback I have received.

13 October 2016
“The Government recognises the need to secure critical maritime skills in Australia for all types of seafarer including deck officers. This is why the Government remains committed to maintaining the availability of seafarer training and employment opportunities, both domestically and internationally, and upholding the reputation of Australian seafarers as some of the best trained and qualified in the world.”

23Rd August 2017
“I note your concerns regarding employment opportunities within the coastal shipping sector, and assure you that the Australian Government appreciates the investment made by yourself and other Australian seafarers to the Australian maritime industry.
“Australian seafarers are among the best trained and qualified in the world and we fully support young Australians pursuing a career in the maritime industry.”

31st October 2017
“In the discussion paper released in by the Minister in March 2017, a number of seafarer training initiatives were proposed to support the retention of critical maritime skills within Australia. Mixed feedback was received from stakeholders across the industry. The Government is doing further work on training initiatives for Australian seafarers with the Department of Education and Training. The submissions received in response to the discussion paper will help to inform any future policy development.”

From my own experience there are no opportunities for young Australians to pursue a career at sea. Australia currently has eleven Australian flagged ships and last month’s announcement from Trident Shipping who manage the four LNG gas tankers that have being transporting LNG from the North-West Shelf to Japan since 1989 that these ships will be retired or re-flagged makes it near impossible to start a career at sea.

While Australians are forced to work on foreign ships overseas on wages lower than the average Australian wage & being the only English-speaking person on board for up to five months, we are seeing some foreign crews trading on our coast receiving the Australian award wage and paying no tax. Questions need to be asked.

If this can be allowed to happen in the Maritime industry it could happen to any other industry such as the airlines; one day we may see Air Asia fly from Darwin to Sydney.

From the letters from Minister Chester there is no doubt he doesn’t want to or support an Australian shipping industry but wants to make it easier for foreign ship owners represented by the likes of ‘Shipping Australia’ to trade freely on the Australian coast with no Australians employed on their vessels.

I look forward to a response from the parties that don’t agree that we should have an Australian Shipping fleet.

Captain Michael Kelly
Marine Pilot
Sydney

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