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Maritime Workers Rally Globally to “Save Australian Shipping”

Credit: ITF
Credit: ITF

By MarEx 2019-05-11 21:10:27

Maritime workers around the globe rallied in an international show of solidarity for Australian seafarers last week. 

The global day of action coordinated by the ITF Cabotage Task Force brought together maritime unions from every continent and included demonstrations in Chile, Germany, Canada, India, Poland, Norway, the U.S. and the Philippines. Protests outside Australian embassies and consulates, corporate offices and on the waterfront called for a reinvigoration of Australia’s domestic shipping industry and urged Australian voters to change the government at the upcoming Australia federal election on May 18.

“Today’s global demonstrations highlight the resolve of transportation workers to stand shoulder to shoulder with Australian seafarers in their fight to protect their jobs and save Australian shipping,” said James Given, Chair of the ITF Cabotage Task Force. “The current Australian government has failed Australian seafarers through deregulation of the industry and permitting flag of convenience vessels to operate in Australia’s coastal trade which has resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs in the sector.

“Australian shipping hangs in the balance this election, and voters have a clear choice – back a party who have committed to create a strategic fleet of Australian-crewed vessels and strengthen coastal shipping regulations or choose a party who is actively supporting the industry’s decline. The choice is simple: we have to support those that support us,” said Given.

Labor Party shadow minister for infrastructure and transport, Anthony Albanese, said last week: “We are an island nation. Accordingly, Labor believes any serious Federal Government must put in place policy settings that promote a strong local shipping sector.”

30 years ago, around 100 large vessels flew the Australian flag while operating domestically and internationally. Today that number is 14. “Even the Merchant Marine of Switzerland, flying the flag of a land-locked nation with a population one-third of Australia’s, is larger,” says Albanese.

He proposes reforms to prevent “further undercutting” of the Australian-flagged fleet and “abuse” of temporary licenses. His party will create a Strategic Fleet of Australian flagged vessels that can be called upon in areas of strategic importance to the Australian economy, such as the importation and distribution of crude oil, aviation fuel and diesel. The vessels will be Australian flagged and Australian crewed, privately owned and commercially operated. They will also provide a platform for the training of a new generation of Australian seafarers.

Labor will reinstate the Maritime Workforce Development Forum to develop strategic responses to skills development. The need for this was underlined when it was identified that a shortage of more than 500 seafarers expected by 2023. The party will also consider tax reforms for shipping companies.