Coastal Shipping

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Government position

  • Coastal shipping is regulated under the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act 2012, which requires vessels that are moving cargo or passengers between ports in different Australian states or territories to have a licence. Under the Act, Australian flagged vessels require a general licence which allows for unrestricted coastal trading and is valid for 5 years; and foreign-flagged vessels require a temporary licence which allows for authorised voyages to be undertaken and is valid for 12 months.
  • Coastal shipping reform has been and continues to be on the Australian Government agenda, with the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications circulating a discussion paper on proposed reforms in October 2020. Key aspects of the proposed reforms include to:
    - Separate licencing frameworks for cargo and passenger vessels;
    - Revise the nomination system, with general licence holders to specify the routes, cargoes and volumes for which they may challenge temporary licence holders, and automatic approval of temporary licences for routes or cargoes where no general licence holder is operating;
    - Remove the five-voyage minimum and tolerance limits for temporary licences; and
    - Modify vessel notification requirements.

Where does Ports Australia stand?

  • Coastal shipping volumes have stayed relatively similar over the past forty years, however its percentage contribution to the national freight task in comparison to road and rail has significantly declined (Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) 2020, Yearbook 2020: Australian Infrastructure Statistics). To ensure that coastal shipping is being employed where it is the most efficient and effective means of freight transport, it is necessary to:
    - Increase transparency of freight volumes and flows across all transport modes. Coastal shipping data is routinely reported and is readily available. Volumes transported by other modes are captured infrequently and are less visible;
    - Increase awareness of the importance of land allocation close to a port for commodity facilities;
    - Address artificial regulatory and other impediments to coastal shipping; and
    - Support policy and investment decisions that do not distort modal choice.

Related Ports Australia submissions and work

Media Release

Ports Australia releases Coastal Shipping Factsheet

Ports Australia has released its Coastal Shipping Factsheet, an analysis paper on the current state of coastal shipping around Australia and its potential for the future of our supply chain.

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