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March 2011 AUSMARINE
Australian plans to reform the national shipping industry could
threaten coastal cargo, said a submission to the government by
Ports Australia, an industry body counting both government
and privately owned ports among its members.
The government has proposed a reform package that would
limit foreign-flagged ships to temporary licenses for coastal
trades, while allowing Australian-operated and crewed vessels to
operate without restrictions.
The reforms are designed to reinvigorate the struggling local
shipping industry. Permits for foreign-flagged vessels were
easily available after a relaxation of rules under the previous
government, and cheaper wages on foreign vessels made them
"Our view is that there is a strong national interest in the
promotion of coastal seaborne freight and there is a strong risk of
failure if this goal were to be subsumed to highly interventionist
policies that at best may bring one or two Australian ships onto
the coast," stated a Ports Australia submission.
"If dedicated coastal shipping were not to be successful,
international lines should not be discouraged or prevented from
carrying coastal cargo. We suggest more consideration of
"Measures designed to restrict the presence of other flags in
our coastal trades run the risk of deterring interest from foreign
flagged operators shipping freight on the coast where they
currently address a significant proportion of the total domestic
freight task, while at the same time stimulating little or no
Australian flagged presence. The net effect is that the role of
coastal shipping in the total domestic freight task diminishes and
we are left with a double policy failure of considerable
significance and impact.
Port Lincoln's tuna farmers triumphed
over being placed in administration
in 1991 and 1992 and constructed
economic success in the form of tuna
farms on Boston Bay.
But now they find themselves
struggling against reduced annual tuna
Some in the Port Lincoln tuna industry
are considering suing the Australian
Government over the fishing quota cut in
2009, The Advertiser reports.
"I believe we may have no other option
than to take the government to court to
get our quota back because they have
been pandering to the greens by
discriminating against an industry of
national importance," said Hagen Stehr,
owner and founder of Australian Tuna
Fisheries and one of over a dozen fishers
who started the farms. "We want
compensation and our quota back and
that will create more employment and
put South Australia and Port Lincoln on
He claims that southern bluefin tuna
stocks have rebounded to sturdy levels.
"Our fishing boats are showing the
largest tuna stocks since the early 1960s
when I started fishing in the Great
Australian Bight," he commented. "CSIRO
aerial surveys this year have confirmed it
by recording as many tonnes of fish in the
sea in the first two weeks of January as in
the first three months of last year."
He said this proves the quota cut was
based on flawed data, and that the
industry could grow to be worth AU$1
billion if quotas rise.
The quota cut has purportedly cost
hundreds in the tuna industry their jobs
and otherwise impaired the Port Lincoln
economy. It all started when the
Commission for the Conservation of
Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT), with the
support of the Federal Government,
decided to cut tuna quotas by 23.4 per
cent to 4,015 tonnes in 2009.
"I think we should increase our quota
to the original level of 15,500 tonnes. That
would be ample to be sustainable," said
Port Lincoln tuna fishing pioneer Dinko
Lukin. "If the whole world sees the tuna
stocks they couldn't believe their eyes."
Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna
Industry Association (ASBTIA) President
Brian Jeffriess agrees with Lukin.
"Dinko has always said the southern
bluefin tuna population moves in cycles and
I believe he is right," he said. "If the industry
has a chance to go to court why not, but I
think we should tell everyone that we have
the healthiest tuna stocks in the world."
The CCSBT will meet next July and
decide on quotas in October.
Jeffriess said he hoped the tuna quota
will rebound to 10,000-15,000 tonnes
Disclosure: Members of the Baird family or
companies in the Baird Publications group own
shares in Clean Seas Tuna.
Swanson Docks and the city of Melbourne
Ports Australia: coastal shipping reforms my cause more harm than good
Photo: Port of Melbourne Corporation
If stocks are returning dramatically, will quotas
Port Lincoln tuna farmers fight quota cuts on evidence of huge stocks
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