THE FEDERAL Government last night committed more than $26 million to the advancement of proposals for an Australian strategic fleet, earning a huge tick form Maritime Industry Australia.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts has been allocated $21.7 million over five years from 2024–25 to support the establishment of the strategic fleet, including delivery of the Strategic Fleet Pilot Program.

A further $4.7 million over three years from 2024–25 has been set aside to undertake a review of the Shipping Registration Act 1981 and Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act 2012.

And funding for the SFPP, under which three privately-owned vessels which would be available to requisition in times of need, will be held in the Contingency Reserve until commercial negotiations have been completed. 

MIAL CEO Angela Gillham said the nation was a critical turning point in the history of Australian shipping policy, “and this is a once in a generation opportunity to arrest the decline in Australian maritime capability. 

“Australian ownership and control of shipping capability is as essential to our national prosperity as Australian miners, farmers, and manufacturers,” Ms Gilham said. 

“The resilience of our seaborne supply chains, and our ability to direct maritime assets and personnel to respond to emergencies in times of need, has been tested more than most realise over the past five years, and will continue to be tested for the foreseeable future. The Albanese Government is taking the lessons and taking action. 

“As an island nation, ships must form part of Australia’s critical infrastructure. This means Australian-based businesses having some level of participation in maritime supply lanes. A strategic fleet provides a trifecta of benefits: security of key supply chains; jobs for highly sought-after maritime skills; and economic stimulus to the nation. 

“The Government’s 2024-25 Federal Budget allocation towards strategic fleet policy implementation is a very welcome step that will make a significant and meaningful impact. 

“A strategic fleet will help to reignite Australian maritime activity and kick-start homegrowncapability, reinforcing our supply chain and civil maritime security. MIAL has been advocating for the need for Australian sovereign maritime capability since 2016 and has long supported the strategic fleet policy. 

“We look forward to continuing our constructive working relationship with the government to implement the pilot program, while also working across portfolios to ensure sustainability and long-term policy certainty for Australian shipowners. 

“This is a landmark budget for Australia shipping and MIAL congratulates the Albanese Government for investing in our national maritime resilience.”

At yesterday’s sessions of MIAL’s Blueprint for a Maritime Nation conference in Brisbane, federal shadow minister for infrastructure and transport, Senator Bridget McKenzie, said industry could expect bipartisan support for enhanced maritime capability and supply-chain security.

“My ongoing commitment to you is to support, where possible, a bipartisan maritime agenda that addresses the immediate challenges but also sets the sails for a sustainable and competitive future for our maritime industry,” she said.