International shipping is a highly competitive business, our members are accustomed to tough competition, and in principle they will always support the introduction of competition in pilotage and other services to shipping, provided that the market is large enough to economically sustain multiple operators and that safety standards are maintained.
I am very pleased to learn of the commencement of pilotage services in Melbourne by the Australian Pilotage Group (APG) and I am sure that many of our members will utilise their services.
That being said, our members are also very happy with the quality of service that continues to be provided by Port Philip Sea Pilots. Though, in recent decades at least, some of the increases in pilotage charges have raised concerns and were no doubt a catalyst for the introduction of competition.
Competition in pilotage in other areas, the Great Barrier Reef is a good example, has resulted in improvements in both safety and cost effectiveness of the delivery of the service and is therefore good for Australia. Innovations such as: adoption of in-house simulation training systems, helicopter transfer of pilots, and enhanced fatigue management systems have been introduced through the pressures of competition and have resulted in a marked decrease in shipping incidents.
In the ports of Melbourne and Geelong, where volume of shipping is sufficient to support multiple operators, competition will help to ensure that there is continual improvement and evolution in pilotage training and delivery methods, it will improve flexibility in delivery of services, including introducing alternate options for pilot transfer. It will do this while keeping a focus on the efficient and cost-effective delivery of services.
I would personally like to congratulate Captain Steve Rabie and his team at APG for taking on the challenge and negotiating the multiple steps required to establish a new pilotage service. Their investment in helicopters for pilot transfer will avoid the hazardous challenge of climbing pilot ladders, which has always been a high-risk activity, and will also minimise transit times and reduce pilot fatigue.
I would also like to congratulate the Victorian government for having the foresight to regulate to allow competition in provision of pilotage services, and the regulators: Victorian Transport Safety (Maritime), Victorian Ports Corporation (Melbourne) and the Harbour Master, for providing an implementation method for the authorisation of the new pilotage operator. It has taken a long time to get here since the Port Services Act provided for competition back in 1995, but the introduction of competition into pilotage will be beneficial to the shipping industry and to the Victorian economy.
Rod Nairn, AM
Chief Executive Officer