MARITIME Union national secretary Paddy Crumlin has called for changes to the Coastal Trading Axt in order to improve Australia’s supply chain security.

Mr Crumlin told a Senate inquiry that Australia was “caught unprepared” by the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the need for changes.

“By making needed amendments to the Coastal Trading Act, restoring its original design intention, along with getting the tax incentives right, local shipowners will be able invest with confidence in a core Australian fleet,” he said.

“This regulatory reform is also vital to support a domestic cruise sector, in a way that is sustainable and improves the economic and social benefits to the country.

“The international cruise industry operating from Australian ports employed almost no Australians, severely mistreated its international crew, and has truly lost its social licence to operate here.”

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The union recommended several steps to improve the sustainability and resilience of the sector, including:

  • reducing Australia’s dependence on foreign shipping, particularly for essential goods and high-risk cargoes;
  • strengthening the Coastal Trading Act to ensure it supports Australian vessels;
  • regulatory reform to support the domestic cruise sector;
  • reform of the maritime crew visa system for foreign seafarers, including limitations on the length of time vessels can operate in Australian waters;
  • reform of the maritime crew visa system for foreign seafarers, including limitations on the length of time seafarer can remain in Australian waters;

“Sustainable shipping policy is critical not only for the domestic maritime industry, but the many Australian industries that depend on it, such as steel, aluminium, construction, retailing, oil refining, tourism and agriculture,” Mr Crumlin said.

The inquiry is due to report by December and Mr Crumlin said it was imperative that the inquiry’s final report set the foundations for government, industry and stakeholder actions that revived and grew Australian shipping.

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