RULES preventing ships from docking at Queensland ports for 14-days since their last overseas port visit have been eased under a new policy announced this week by Maritime Safety Queensland.

Exemptions have been put in place for ships from New Zealand, PNG, the South West Pacific and Singapore, however restrictions remain in place for vessels from China and South Korea.

“MSQ has been seeking to balance safety and economic concerns, with the ultimate aim of ensuring that our ports and supply chains remain open,” an MSQ statement read. 

MSQ noted Brisbane had a different trade and risk profile than Queensland’s northern ports and the majority of exemption applications had been from container lines sailing to Brisbane.

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“Whilst many of these exemptions have been granted… MSQ appreciates this application process has placed an administrative burden on shipping agents,” the regulator stated.

Queensland and Brisbane consequently faced potential challenges getting essential cargo efficiently.

Discussions involving MSQ and industry representatives led to the establishment of a ‘Two Port’ policy from Monday 23 March, making Brisbane restrictions consistent with federal government advice.

MSQ is to continue to work with health authorities to monitor the situation in China and South Korea in order to eventually open up these time-restrictions.

Shipping Australia deputy CEO Melwyn Noronha said a policy requiring a long list of exemptions and amendments “probably was not a very good policy to begin with” and some trades, such as sugar, chemicals, iron ore concentrates and fertilisers still could be adversely affected.

“There is a simple and easy solution to this wholly unnecessary and harmful disruption,” Mr Noronha said.

“The federal, state and territory governments should direct port authorities to remove restrictions on cargo carrying vessels from berthing, and loading/unloading cargo when those ships have previously called at overseas port within the last 14-days.”

Mr Noronha said port authorities should follow the pragmatic and national guidance of the Australian Border Force.

“Freight and logistics are vital to Australia’s supply chain,” he said. “The port supply chain should be viewed as an essential service as governments assess further stages beyond the current shutdown measures.”

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