IN REGARDS to recent articles by DCN editor David Sexton and MIAL CEO Teresa Lloyd, I would like to make some further comments and observations about the future of coastal shipping in Australia.
Australia is uniquely placed to take full advantage of coastal shipping. We are a large island nation, we have nearly 90% of our population within 50km of the coast, our population is growing and we have a large domestic freight task already.
So with all these things going for us, why is coastal shipping in Australia not flourishing? In short, a lack of vision. A lack of vision of what could be and then the willingness to do the hard things to get there. It starts at a federal level and spreads down to state governments and the port authorities.
The federal government has committed $75bn over the next 10 years for what they call “transport infrastructure”. This is all to be spent on road and rail but amazingly not one single dollar, not one, on developing the blue water highway that surrounds our great country.
Coastal shipping needs the right shoreside facilities at the right price at both ends and very likely these will need to be marginally priced. But always remember; once at sea, the ocean is free. There are no huge upfront construction costs and no ongoing maintenance fees, in fact the upside is enormous in reduced road/rail funding, trucks off major highways and less pollution.
With this in mind you would think all government bodies would be tripping over themselves to do more, but sadly this is not the case. In fact, NSW Ports has recently dealt a blow to coastal cargo by increasing wharfage on coastal cargo from $43/TEU to $81.94 (export) and $123.10(import). I am still scratching my head wondering why.
The sad fact that many main ports have now been privatised, gives rise to greater concern as they seek to maximise shareholder return through increased prices, rather than promoting and actively encouraging modal shift from road/rail to coastal shipping.
With little vision in Canberra and local port authorities providing obstacles rather than encouragement, it is little wonder that progress is non-existent.