What is Australia’s shipping future?

The Federal Government will ask a bipartisan House of Representative Standing Committee to inquire into the Australian coastal shipping industry.

This inquiry fulfils an election commitment to review the shipping industry and will make important recommendations on the future of this key domestic transport sector.

Between 1996 and mid-2006 the number of Australian registered trading vessels fell from 75 to just 46.

The committee will also assess measures for developing an adequate skilled maritime workforce in order to facilitate the sector’s growth.

The inquiry is a response to repeated requests from industry for action. Industry stakeholders have told of their reluctance to invest in replacing an ageing fleet while existing policy arrangements remain in place.

They are also concerned by the industry’s ageing workforce and the limited training opportunities for young people.

The government hopes for a viable coastal shipping industry in a competitive domestic transport sector – an outcome critical to Australia’s economic future and long term national security, a spokesman said.

"As an island continent with a population spread along a vast coastline, shipping can be an efficient transport mode when it comes to transporting large quantities of cargo from one part of the country to another.

"Between 2007 and 2020 the volume of freight needing to be transported around the country is predicted to grow by 40 per cent – that’s an average of 14.9 billion tonne kilometres of additional domestic freight each year," he said.

The chair of the committee, Catherine King, said the committee will inquire into coastal shipping policy and regulation with the aim of enhancing the competitiveness and sustainability of Australia’s coastal shipping sector.

Ms King agrees with the Minister that the sector is of vital importance to the Australian economy. The committee intends to explore issues such as the policy and regulatory arrangements in place for the coastal shipping sector; strategies for developing an adequate skilled maritime workforce and the effect of coastal shipping policy on the development of an efficient and productive freight transport system.

The full terms of reference for the inquiry may be obtained from the committee secretariat on the contact details listed below or via the website.

Submissions will be received until 11 April 2008 and can be e-mailed to itrdlg.reps@aph.gov.au or sent to the following address:

Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Committee

House of Representatives

PO Box 6021

Parliament House

Canberra ACT 2600

Further information and advice on making submissions, can be found at: http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/itrdlg/index.htm

MREC HERE

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