Australia’s Palaszczuk Government has announced plans to invest AU$21 million ($14.9 million) over two years to revitalise Queensland’s shipping industry.

As disclosed by Mark Bailey, Transport and Main Roads Minister, a priority will be a new shipping service between Townsville and Brisbane crewed by local seafarers.

In addition, the government said it would invest in port facilities upgrades and ensure that ports remain in public ownership.

There will also be $1 million set aside for training, providing opportunities for Queenslanders to enter the industry or increase their skills.

The announcement has been welcomed by the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) as a vital step to create local jobs and strengthen supply chains.

“This investment in the ‘blue highway’ along Queensland’s coast will not only create jobs for local seafarers, it will strengthen the maritime supply chains that are vital for keeping the state’s economy ticking and delivering essential goods to the community,” Stephen Cumberlidge, MUA Queensland Branch Secretary, commented.

“The creation of a new shipping service between Townsville and Brisbane will provide improved freight movement while also increasing marine safety and protecting the Great Barrier Reef by using highly-skilled local seafarers.”

“By investing in upgrades to publicly-owned ports and funding training for existing seafarers and locals wanting to enter the industry, Labor’s pledge will ensure the long-term viability of our vital industry.”

“This announcement doesn’t just deliver jobs, it actively strengthens Australia’s supply chains by increasing the use of locally owned and crewed vessels along the Queensland coast,” he added.

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said the announcement built on the work of the Maritime Jobs Taskforce, established by the Labor Government earlier this year.

“Australia was caught unprepared by the COVID pandemic, which highlighted the threat to our sovereignty caused by a dependence on foreign shipping for domestic and international trade,” Crumlin said.

Today’s announcement is said to be a practical response to that threat, with a clear plan to strengthen domestic seafaring and reduce the reliance on foreign flag-of-convenience vessels crewed by ‘exploited’ workers.

“As we move towards the recovery phase from the COVID crisis, steps that strengthen the resilience of our supply chains and ensure our island nation is served by skilled Australian seafarers should be commended.”

Earlier this year, MUA won a four-and-a-half-year legal battle for ten Australian seafarers who refused to be replaced by foreign, cheaper workers.

After finding out that Alcoa was planning to fire 40 Australian seafarers and sell the MV Portland bulker, the seafarers undertook a two-month sit-in to prevent their Australian-flagged vessel to be sold.

Source: World Maritime News