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ITF condemns Shipping Australia Limited's opposition to strategic fleet

15 Dec 2023
Press Release

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) today condemned Shipping Australia Limited (SAL) for consistently opposing the Australian government's plan to establish a strategic fleet of Australian-flagged vessels.

Chris Given, Chair of the ITF's Cabotage Task Force, said SAL's stance is "short-sighted and detrimental to Australia's national interests."

"SAL, which represents major international shipping lines – including Evergreen, MSC, K-Line, HMM, CMA CGM, Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd – seems to be more concerned with the profits of foreign multinationals than with the well-being of Australia's economy, security, and maritime industry," said Given.

"Maritime cabotage is essential for Australia's domestic trade, national security, and environmental sustainability. It also creates jobs and develops skills in the maritime sector. SAL's opposition to a strategic fleet is nothing more than an attempt to protect the interests of its overseas members at the expense of Australia's national interests."

SAL represents major international shipping lines operating under Flag of Convenience registers that prioritise minimal regulations, no or low taxes, and maximum flexibility in seafarers' wage and working conditions to maximise profits.

Given noted that SAL's recent article comparing Australia's cabotage policies to Chile's decision to liberalise its maritime sector is misleading.

"Despite the clear benefits of a national fleet, SAL has recently published an article advocating against the government's plans to enhance cabotage regulations, drawing parallels with Chile's decision to liberalise its maritime cabotage," Given noted.

"However, it's crucial to note that the ITF met with Chilean government representatives who reaffirmed their commitment to supporting national seafarers and maintaining their national cabotage, collaborating with the ITF and its affiliates for any necessary improvements.”

Given commended other nations, such as Thailand and South Africa, for recognising the importance of strengthening national trade by introducing national shipping lines for domestic routes.

"In contrast to SAL's stance, South Africa, like Australia, took proactive measures during the Covid-19 pandemic, acknowledging the vulnerability of their supply chains to disruptions in essential imports and exports," Given stated. "South Africa's response involved the development of the South African Shipping Company Bill, aimed at creating and managing a strategic fleet of vessels under the South African Ship Register."

Given emphasised that SAL's opposition to a national fleet is driven by a desire to prioritise the highest profits for multinational shipping companies, rather than fostering a level playing field that benefits the Australian economy and its citizens.

"The ITF commends the Australian government for its efforts to fortify cabotage, recognising its integral role in the nation's well-being," concluded Given. "We urge SAL to wake up and reconsider its narrow perspective and support policies that promote the sustainable development of Australia's maritime industry."

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