WESTERN Australia’s Shipping and Supply Chain Taskforce recently released a report, which argues that the state’s supply chains are vulnerable to natural disasters and rules around coastal shipping should be changed to foster sovereign maritime capability.

Reflecting on recent catastrophic flooding events that suspended essential rail and road connectivity to the eastern states, and completely isolated remote communities in the Kimberly, the report notes these events exposed major vulnerabilities in WA’s supply chain security with an overreliance on road and rail, and foreign shipping lines.

MIAL CEO Angela Gillham said the importance of coastal shipping to WA’s supply chain security and economic prosperity more generally is clear.

“Australia should be a strong maritime nation. We are an island and utterly dependent on sea transport, but when it comes to shipping, we have an ever-diminishing fleet, and are almost completely reliant on foreign assets and human capital, which is a major gap in our national resilience,” she said.

The report recognises the need to implement measures to support the growth in the Australian fleet by “levelling the field” with international carriers and makes several recommendations relating to changes to federal law that the WA government should support.

Ms Gillham said it is important that Australian shipping businesses are afforded the opportunity to complete on a level playing field with foreign shipping.

“The report recommendations relating to Australian shipping taxation and improving the Australian International Shipping Register are necessary reforms that MIAL has been calling for,” she said.

“Nations with large fleets controlled under their own flags recognise the benefits: critical maritime skills development; economic diversity and revenue generation from the associated maritime economic cluster; control of critical strategic assets; and supply chain security.”

Ms Gillham said the federal government’s strategic fleet policy aims to build Australia’s national maritime capability, which is a critical element of Australia’s national resilience.

“We welcome the strong support from WA for the policy and look forward to government announcements on moving towards implementation in the national interest,” she said.