Jul 21, 2008

Launch of the Australian Shipowners Association’s ‘Careers at Sea Website’

Launch of the Australian Shipowners Association’s ‘Careers at Sea Website’

Monday, 21 July 2008

Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Introduction…

ASA Chairman David Sterret…

Board members…

Executive Director Theresa Hatch..

Distinguished guests…

Thank you for the introduction Teresa…

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

I’m very pleased to be with you today to launch the Australian Shipowners Association ‘Careers at Sea’ initiative.

It’s fitting that we come together in Darling Harbour, once Australia’s busiest seaport, to discuss the challenges facing the maritime industry.

Although Darling Harbour is no longer the focal point of Australia’s international trade, our maritime sector remains a key trade link with the rest of the world.

For Australia to be able to meet the challenges thrown our way by global economic demands, we need to maintain a dynamic and robust maritime industry.

The Australian economy relies heavily on the maritime sector in international trade, especially in our primary production, manufacturing and resources sectors.

We export goods by sea worth over $142 billion and receive goods of over $133 billion, or over 733 million tonnes in both directions. Domestically, we move over 56 million tonnes of cargo by ships.

But if we are to ensure that Australia’s maritime industry and maritime tradition do not simply become footnotes in our history pages, then we need to act now.

Last week, we became aware that yet another Australian licensed vessel, the Seakap, is to be withdrawn from service on the Australian Coast and replaced with another vessel that may be owned and managed overseas.

As you know, the House of Representatives Portfolio Committee is conducting a wide-ranging inquiring into coastal shipping, to make recommendations to the government as to the best policy settings to enliven an Australian shipping industry.

Regardless of the regulatory framework, the maritime industry needs to have the human capability to meet future demands.

A well-informed, well-skilled maritime workforce is crucial to meeting this objective.

Growing demand…

Growing demands are placing growing pressure upon the skills and capacity of our maritime sector.

I understand the number of Capesize bulk carriers is expected to nearly double in a period of four years, with many coming on stream by 2010.

This huge additional call on seafaring resources has major implications both globally and locally.

In Australia, we are faced with a skills shortage which, if not addressed effectively, will not just seriously constrain our capacity to keep up with global demand, but even with the industry’s current effort.

Whenever I speak to maritime industry participants, the common theme of what they tell me is the shortage of skilled labour provides a barrier to future growth.

The ASA submission to the coastal shipping inquiry suggests there will be a shortage of 3,000 domestic seafarers by 2010, with three times more deck officers entering retirement age than have recently entered the industry and five times more for engine officers.

This year the Australian Maritime College cancelled its course for Marine Engineers class 3 because companies could not afford to let their employees undertake training to maintain or enhance their skills.

Yet at the same time I’m told there is no shortage of cold inquiries from young people and career changers interested in going to sea.

And nearly every Transport & Logistics industry recruitment brochure has a picture of a ship on it.

The shortage of seafarers has become a key risk for the shipping industry.

The question industry needs to ask is everything being done that could be to provide training opportunities to the employees of the future.

Unless these problems are addressed through a concerted effort by the whole industry, then it will be difficult to redress regardless of the regulatory or other measures the Government’s puts in place to support Australian shipping.

Tackling it effectively requires all parties to cooperate – the shipowners, the maritime unions, governments, training organisations, the oil and gas sector and shore-based users of maritime skills.

Developing an adequately skilled maritime workforce is a key term of reference for the inquiry into coastal shipping.

The Government recognises that an inadequate pool of skills is a critical risk to our aim of achieving a competitive and sustainable coastal shipping industry, and this has been confirmed in a number of the submissions to the Inquiry.

Those of you who have browsed submissions to the Inquiry are aware that a number of options to address the skills issue have already been identified. These include:

  •  the introduction of a tonnage tax linked to investments in training;
  •  linking training responsibilities to the licensing and permit arrangements for foreign ships working on the Australian coast;
  •  changes to section 23AG of the Income Tax legislation regarding taxation arrangements of earnings by Australian seafarers employed in the international trades; and
  •  the introduction of a training levy.

These options clearly have attractions, but they will need to be looked at closely when the Government considers the development of broader shipping policies.

Importantly, we’re not sitting on our hands while we await the report of the Parliamentary inquiry.

There are a number of initiatives already underway to assist to address maritime skills issues. Initiatives aimed at finding innovative ways to improve maritime career paths, so that a deckhand on a small fishing vessel can aspire to become a master of an international trading ship.

The Australian Marine Pilots Association has been working with industry stakeholders to develop an alternative pathway for a career in marine pilotage.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s ‘Tinny to Tanker’ concept is aimed at facilitating a seamless transition from the state and territory seafarer qualifications systems to the internationally recognised system administered by AMSA.

AMSA is also reviewing its Marine Orders Part 3, covering the national seagoing qualifications system. Their objective is to improve consistency with international standards and recognition of state and territory qualifications as part of the national system.

AMSA has already achieved improvements in the promotion of the career transition for seagoing personnel from the Royal Australian Navy to the international shipping industry.

This Friday, transport Ministers from around the country will meet here in Sydney to consider, amongst other things, establishing a single maritime jurisdiction for commercial vessels. If successful, we will be well on the way to achieving these goals.

The Rudd Government wants Australia to have the best skilled workforce in the world.

We have begun an Education Revolution which already includes an investment of $1.9 billion over five years to fund up to 630,000 new training places. Maritime positions have been added to the priority list.

The Education Revolution will be supported by the Industry Skills Councils and the newly established Skills Australia, an independent statutory body that will provide advice on workforce development and future skills.

The industry’s role…

These initiatives and more will be needed to address the maritime skills challenge. But for them to succeed, the whole industry needs to work cooperatively and collaboratively.

Collectively, we can build upon and improve Australia’s well earned international reputation for the integrity and quality of its seafarer qualifications.

The industry needs to be innovative, with parties working together on a number of fronts. Current training strategies should be examined, reassessed and where appropriate, alternative models explored.

Can we expand the pathways into maritime training, and reduce their length, particularly for mature workers?

Does all training need to be essentially linked to an employment relationship?

It is now a broadly accepted principle in higher and vocational education across nearly all industries that self-motivated students who are interested in rewarding careers will contribute some of the costs of their education prior to achieving employment outcomes.

Are our current sea-time requirements still appropriate, given some of them are higher than the IMO standards?

Is there a role for Group-Training in the industry?

As Abe Lincoln said, “these are trying times” and “we must think anew to act anew”.

Launch…

The Australian Shipowners Association is thinking anew. Through the creation of the ‘Careers at Sea’ website it is promoting the opportunities that the maritime industry offers Australian workers.

As I said earlier, to grow the capacity of the maritime industry in line with global economic demand, we need a well-informed and well-skilled workforce.

Careers at Sea will provide easily accessible, comprehensive and accurate information on career options and provide a vehicle to link potential seafarers with the companies that could employ them.

In itself the website is not a solution to the skills problem, but it is a valuable tool and I commend the ASA for its initiative in developing the new site.

I am aware that the ASA is talking about a voluntary training contribution from broader seafaring employers such as Ports, Oil & Gas and pilotage operators, as a means of easing the burden of seafarer training where it is currently concentrated, on the blue water shipping industry.

I am also aware that views a voluntary levy vary, but I would encourage all parties to look at it closely in the context of potential industry-led initiatives that could make a significant contribution to solving the skills problem.

The potential pool of new seafarers is limited, and it is in everyone’s interests to find collaborative, long-term solutions.

This means long-term investments that reflect the contribution seafaring skills make to the maritime industry, and in turn to the Australian national interest.

The maritime sector can attract a broad range of people because it can offer a very board range of jobs and experiences. Its approach needs to be strategic.

Today most job seekers and workers rely heavily on the web for training and employment information.

For instance the MUA’s existing Employee Assistance Scheme Website is a tool that allows existing seafarers to make their availability to work known to potential employers.

The ASA is playing an essential role in promoting the industry, matching employers with employees, and promoting training needs and opportunities.

Initiatives such as this one will help ensure that our maritime industry continues to underpin our growth and prosperity, and it gives me great pleasure to officially launch the ‘Careers at Sea’ Website.

Thank you.