Wednesday 21st Nov, 2018

THE SHIPPING LIFE: Australia needs Australian flag shipping

Image: Jim Wilson and Shutterstock
Image: Jim Wilson and Shutterstock

THIS issue is no novelty for any readers or for myself. The question has been asked of me why this is considered by me to be so important. Why not just leave it like any other Armchair General stuff for “them” – the Federal Government – to sort out? The problem is that “they” have a whole list of other and more popular priorities, be it pet projects or political issues.

So, my answer is that I care very much about this and any other problem affecting Australia and its welfare. As a very proud Aussie since 50 years back I love my wonderful country dearly, as most of us do, whether our immigration dates back 50-60 years like mine or go back even further to the deportee shipment days 150 years. Unless, like some evidently lead us to believe, that these generations fell out of a gumtree.

I have travelled more than most, to about 130 countries and all of them close up, and it makes me wish that us Australians would achieve whatever we are still missing and need, so that we are second to none globally. We may not totally get there, but we should certainly try.

In my mild soapbox oratory ways I would refer to things like we, as the world’s largest uranium producer and exporter don’t have nuclear power, placing us behind countries like Slovakia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam etc. The refusal to go nuclear on environmental or moral grounds doesn’t ring true, since we evidently happily accept that our exports create the same problems as our governments envisage, except that it is away from our shores. That is, until we proceed with the proposed return of the wasted uranium for our underground storage. And in the meantime we suffer the world’s highest energy costs and risk severe rationing due to excessive and uncontrolled gas exports.

That we no longer can build cars, like Slovakia, Thailand, Iran, Romania, Morocco and Serbia and 80+ other countries do. And that we are behind 150 nations operating 50,000 merchant vessels internationally and employing a million seafarers of virtually every nationality.

Except Australia. Our coastal shipping is in the hands of foreign companies providing vacant slots, and the Australian National Line identity and naming rights are owned by the French CGM. There are virtually no Australian ships lifting any cargo, domestic or internationally. It leaves us exposed in case of a global shipping downturn, when our exports and imports flow could be severely impacted with huge negatives for our national economy, employment and cost of living.

Strategically it is also very unsound that we are not masters of our own destiny in terms of our transport seaborne links as distinct from air transport. Can you imagine all our domestic and international flights being carried out by foreign companies, maybe just leaving a hypothetic Sydney-Lord Howe island being run by Australia?

Australia used to be a seafaring nation, offering training like any other country and employment and indeed a culture segment that we should value. This is all gone. My approaches to Canberra have achieved nothing. On ministerial level I was told that we have “a vibrant maritime industry participation”, when only 2% of our international cargo is carried by Australian flag: just four vessels carrying LNG exports from the NW Shelf to Asia. My contact with a shadow minister’s minders was received by a suggestion that I was “a journo looking for trouble”.
The responsibility clearly rests with our two opposing top leaders, and I feel they have an obligation to tell their countrymen and women what is in store for us in this area, what their planning and target dates are. Or if there are no such plans at all, meaning that the status quo would remain forever?

So I have written the below polite Open Memo addressed to both Mr Turnbull and Mr Shorten and asked for a reply before the next edition of Lloyd’s List Australia. We will see what happens. The memo is a one-off effort of desperation.




DATE: Sydney 27th September, 2017


Please read the above article covering the appalling absence of Australian National Flag shipping, BOTH international and domestic, from our island nation!

According to government statistics only 2% of our international cargo is carried by Australian ships and only in the form of the gas exports from the Shelf to Asia.

Ministerial comment was to the effect that our government was maintaining a “vibrant” shipping identity! The Opposition spokesperson seemed not to comprehend the issue.

Clearly this state of affairs should not be allowed to continue. Conditions and legislation should be altered to encourage Australian commercial shipping to enter the field. The unions which I have spoken to seem ready to reach agreement for a new working crew arrangement in a spirit of cooperation which was instrumental in bringing peace and efficiency to our working waterfront, which also had a history of union obstacles, but is now working well.

Obviously this should be a bi-partisan matter holding much interest for all sides of politics, and I urge you both to get together and create an urgent Forum with all parties concerned. Under an independent Chairman this should aim to set up a game plane complete with firm target dates for action points and follow-up meetings.

Clearly, the matter is urgent. I request that you jointly provide a concise response spelling out in clear language (not referring to legislation) what action you propose to take and let me have that reply (or lack of) reported for publication in Lloyds List Australia issue no later than Friday, 13th October, 2017. I request that you communicate directly with myself only, since I am the sole instigator of this initiative at this stage.

Consider this: failure to re-create and maintain an Australian Merchant Navy should be an unthinkable inability – surely not the Aussie way, nor should it be the Parliament’s option!

Thanking you in anticipation.

Captain Harry Mansson AM
Box 266
Avalon 2107
Phone: 02 9918 7013


Do you agree with Captain Harry’s assessment of the state of Australian shipping? Leave a comment below or contact us at

From the print edition October 5, 2017

* Captain Harry Mansson AM is a Master Mariner, a retired ship’s Captain, with a subsequent varied background as an international consultant to the United Nations/World Bank to a shipping management entrepreneur. He has enjoyed a stellar career at sea and onshore.

Starting with the Swedish Merchant Navy, he also served as an officer in the Swedish Royal Navy sweeping active mines. In 1972 he established Orient Shipping Services Pty Ltd as the general agent for the entry of the Orient Overseas Line (now OOCL) into the Asia/ Australia trade. In 1993 he was deservedly awarded the Order of Australia for services to shipping and international trade.

  • Stephen Carson

    Well written. i am an Australian seafarer returning back to Australia after 17 years working oversea hoping to get a Marine Engineers position. But my chances of finding a position dismal yet we have foreign engineers employed on dodgy visas.what a disgraceful situation

    Stephen Carson

  • Tim

    Captain Harry the problem is the Shipping companies want it this way as it keeps conditions and wages down they rather like only having to pay 3rd world rates.

    They also don’t have to deal with the Maritime Union which they have been in open warfare with for decades. The fact that Australian Government lets them get away with this I can not understand.

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