Coastal shipping could provide relief to the freight congestion caused by onerous and confusing state COVID testing and self-isolation rules for truck drivers and transport workers.
Some container shipping lines already carry domestic freight between Australian capital cities on regular services at better-than-weekly frequency.
Shippers with regular shipping requirements already find it advantageous to look to the “blue highway” to move their cargoes between Australian States and to avoid the border road-blocks being imposed by different State Governments.
Right now a lot more domestic shippers could find a solution by looking to move their goods by coastal shipping.
Since a National Cabinet decision on 09 April 2020 enabling maritime crew movements for operational, welfare and crew change reasons, Shipping Australia has been critical of uncoordinated policy action Australia’s States in failing to implement it.
Now the same lack of coordination is impacting road freight and The Australian Trucking Association is, quite reasonably, livid.
According to a report from Portner Press, ATA CEO Ben Maguire claims that the National Cabinet interstate freight protocol that was agreed last Friday was intended to solve the cross border problem but it “has just made the problem worse because the states are each implementing the protocol differently and ignoring the sections intended to reduce red tape”.
With considerable regret and disappointment we have to welcome the trucking industry to the same bureaucratic nightmare of red tape and uncoordinated policy action that has been experienced by the maritime freight industry.
Meanwhile, coastal shipping is more expensive than it needs to be due to onerous regulatory requirements and a mandated subsidisation of foreign seafarer wages.
It is times like now when the maintenance of our supply chains is challenged, and the rapid-fire new rules and restrictions create bottlenecks and confusion, that Australians realise we need to reform coastal shipping regulation.
We must make coastal shipping cheaper and more responsive to support our own manufacturers and help them get their goods to domestic markets.