THE Maritime Union has urged the Commonwealth to address the nation’s reliance on foreign tankers to transport oil and petroleum products.

The union has welcomed the Commonwealth Request for Information process, which seeks to identify opportunities to strengthen refining capacity and increase domestic fuel storage capacity, but says issues facing the transport of liquid fuels to Australia and around the coast remained unresolved.

“The COVID-19 heath crisis has highlighted the vulnerability of Australia’s supply chains and demonstrated how quickly a pandemic, military conflict, natural disaster, or economic shock could impact the supply of essential goods,” MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said.

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“Clear gaps in Australia’s sovereign self-sufficiency have been exposed, placing a clear obligation on the Federal Government to close these gaps and reinforce the cabotage system that governs shipping around our coast, along with biosecurity, immigration, and related border controls.”

Mr Crumlin said Australia’s “complete reliance” on foreign owned and operated tankers had left the nation extremely vulnerable.

“While recent shortages of household items were inconvenient, a crisis that cut fuel supplies would force the entire economy to grind to a halt,” he said.

MUA assistant national secretary Ian Bray said the government’s initial steps to enhance domestic fuel refining and storage capacity were a good start, but genuine energy security required action on how fuel is transported to Australia and around the coast.

“If the federal government is serious about examining industry solutions to address Australia’s fuel security, then it needs to look at the creation of a strategic fleet of Australian owned, flagged, or crewed tankers,” he said.

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