Canberra issues shipping license exemptions for flood-hit Western Australia

© Jude Black

The Australian Government has announced temporary changes to its Coastal Commerce (Australian Shipping Revitalization) Act 2012, which will exempt vessels from the requirement to obtain a license to transport containers and ro-ro cargo to Western Australia from other Australian ports.

This is an interim measure to ease supply chain pressures caused by flood damage to the Trans-Australian Rail Line, effective from today until March 31.

There was record rainfall in South Australia on Sunday and the monsoons are expected to continue this month.

Supply chain disruptions are so severe that supermarkets in Western Australia have run out of food and other essentials as flooding damaged the railway linking the state to the east from the country.

Woolworths and Coles, Australia’s two largest supermarket chains, have resorted to limiting the toilet paper, painkillers and sausages customers can buy at their outlets in Western Australia.

Maritime Industry Australia (MIAL), the trade body representing the country’s maritime industry, has called for more to be done to develop the country’s shipping capabilities, saying the benefits of shipping must be seen beyond the current emergency.

MIAL believes Australia could be much more resilient and self-sufficient, with a fraction of the attention and funding given to land transport options.

MIAL CEO Teresa Lloyd said: “Shipping should be the primary mode of transportation around our coastline, not a route of last resort. This is an opportunity for the Morrison government to identify shipping as an essential mode of transport to secure our supply chains, both domestically and internationally, and to put in place policies to help businesses Australian shipping companies to take control and do more cargo work.

Ms Lloyd added that the shipping industry needed a fraction of the investment needed to secure transnational rail lines.

“It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Australia should have road, rail and sea capabilities.

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