THE FEDERAL government has begun implementing recommendations of the Strategic Fleet Taskforce, which delivered its final report in November.

Infrastructure and transport minister Catherine King on Friday (2 February) said work was underway on initiatives consistent with the government’s response to the report, which found an Australian-flagged and crewed strategic fleet would improve Australia’s future maritime capability “by helping get vital goods to affected regions and make us less reliant on international shipping in times of national crisis and emergency”.

“I expect demonstrable progress towards getting the first vessels in the fleet will be made this year, including the opening of applications to join the strategic fleet, expected mid-year,” Ms King said.

“My department has commenced targeted consultation with vessel operators and unions to seek their views on participation in the fleet, workforce and skills, and business effects of requisitioning.

“Legislative reviews of the Shipping Registration Act 1981 and the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act 2012 will commence later this year and I encourage all stakeholders to contribute to them.

“While the strategic fleet will provide invaluable training opportunities and employment pathways, it alone will not overcome all the barriers to growing the Australian seafaring workforce.”

The Jobs and Skills Council for the Transport and Logistics sector is considering the advice of the taskforce as part of its annual Workforce Plan. The Workforce Plan will consider a range of issues to inform the government’s decision-making on actions required to support the maritime workforce, the minister said.

Another important part of the supporting architecture around the strategic fleet will be delivering on the Government’s commitment to increase monitoring activities relating to the payment of Seagoing Industry Award 2020 Schedule A wages on foreign vessels operating under Temporary Licence.

Options to enhance the monitoring of foreign seafarer underpayment when foreign vessels are operating in Australian waters are being considered at present.

“This is a big year for progress delivering on the Government’s commitment to establish the strategic fleet and I look forward to making a number of announcements throughout the course of the year,” Ms King said.