Building Maritime Skills

If we do not find a solution to Australia’s maritime skills shortage this country will not have the skilled personnel to operate it’s most vital trade and economic infrastructure.

Building Maritime Skills to Protect and Grow Australia

Ports need Australians with expert maritime skills to operate. Australia is an island nation with over 98% of its trade moving by sea equating to around $1.2 billion of trade goods moving through our Ports every day.  

Ports are operated by people with specific maritime skills. Unfortunately, the pool of people with the skills required to run a Port is shrinking. Over 60% of people in the industry are over 45 while the number aged under 30 is reducing. Ports around the country, particularly regional Ports,  are struggling to recruit adequately skilled people for specific roles.  457 visas are now crucial to filling vital roles.

If we do not find a solution to Australia’s maritime skills shortage this country will not have the skilled personnel to operate it’s most vital trade and economic infrastructure.

What people are in demand at Ports?

It varies but some roles that are specialised and central to a safely operating Port are:

  • Harbour Masters
  • Marine Pilots
  • Tug Masters, and;
  • Hydrographers

What would the impacts on Australia be if these roles cannot be filled?

  • Reduced fuel security
  • Delays on imports and exports
  • Increases in the cost of goods
  • Weaker economy
  • Safety incidents to infrastructure and people
  • Impact on the sustainability of some Australian businesses
  • Inability to support the Royal Australian Navy in times of conflict

What are the main issues restricting Ports from filling vital roles?

  • The decline of the shipping industry in Australia (we now have less then 10 operating Australian vessels)
  • A lack of training berths for seafaring graduates
  • The resulting lack of qualified and experienced mariners to undertake specialist roles
  • Declining tertiary education options and opportunities
  • Safety incidents to infrastructure and people
  • The small ageing workforce – 62.7% of workers are 45 years or older

What does the maritime labour market in Australia look like?

According to the Australian Government, the average age of a maritime personnel is 49 years with many workers 45 years or older (62.7%).  This is consistent with the global average.  According to the Australian Industry Standards , the alarming trend is that the number of Maritime workers under the age of 30 has gone backwards in the 10 year period to 2016, falling 11.7 per cent, while the number of workers aged 60 and over have grown almost 73 per cent over the same time.

How did we get to this stage?

Australian shipping is disappearing. The number of Australian flagged vessels have fallen from over a hundred in the 1990’s to less than a dozen today.  As a result, the industry is producing less people with the appropriate skills to work in Ports after their career at sea.

Australian shipping requires significant legislative and policy changes for it to be a viable transport option when considering the management of Australia’s domestic freight task. See Using Australia's Blue Highway for more on this.

How do we fix this?

To keep the Australian economy functioning we suggest a two-pronged solution:

  • Develop a sensible shipping policy that facilitates the training and employment of Australian seafarers there by ensuring they continue to develop and gain adequate skills and qualifications.
  • Undertake changes to the Temporary Skills Visa System that allow for the recognition of this maritime shortfall facing Australia and the world.  Accordingly, this will facilitate the hiring of a limited number of foreign maritime specialist that will ensure the ongoing operations of our local maritime industry and train future Australians to succeed them.

Australians need functioning Ports. Without considered change in policy settings, a void of specialist mariners with the necessary skills and experience to fill key roles in Australian Ports and other maritime sectors will result in the long‑term in security of Australian Ports, the broader maritime industry and consequently the economy and our lifestyle.

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The Effectiveness Of The Current Temporary Skilled Visa System In Targeting Genuine Skills Shortages

A Ports Australia submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee on the effectiveness of the temporary skills visa system in managing the genuine long-term maritime skills shortage in Australia.

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