May 24, 2012

A New Era Dawns for Australia’s Maritime Industry

Today I introduced a package of bills that will give effect to historic reforms to the way Australia regulates all commercial vessels within our waters, replacing the seven existing Federal, state and territory bureaucracies and the fifty pieces of legislation they administer with one national regulator and one set of nationwide laws.

The legislation now before the Parliament will eliminate the artificial sea borders which have existed between the states since Federation.  From 1 January 2013, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) will become the national regulator of all commercial vessels, not just those involved in international trade.

This will free manufacturers, operators and crews of commercial vessels from the current costly and confusing array of regulations.

The legislation also completes the first major rewrite of the maritime laws which will be administered and enforced by AMSA, the Navigation Act 2012.  All up, the Act has been amended more than 70 times yet there are still provisions from the era of the sailing ships in the late 18th century.

For example, the Act prescribes the circumstances in which “lunatics” can be passengers on ships, provides immunity for a master that shots someone on-board their vessel and allows government officials to use deadly force to suppress any “plundering, disorder or obstruction” when a ship is wreaked.

As a large, relatively remote island continent, Australia is particularly reliant on the maritime industry for its ongoing economic development.  Indeed almost all our imports and exports are carried by ship and our busy ports manage some 10 per cent of the global sea trade.

That’s why we have acted.  The creation of a national system will lift safety standards, reduce red tape and provide better protections for our fragile marine environment from pollution and accidents.

Funding ($10.2 million) to finalise and bed-down the establishment of the new national regulator was provided for in this year’s Federal Budget.  It will complement the measures we are taking to reverse the decline and restore the viability of the Australia’s domestic shipping industry.