Blue corridor key to keeping pace with freight

Ports Australia has urged the incoming Federal Government to increase connectivity between ports and road and rail networks, invest in maritime skills, and make maximum use of coastal shipping.

The peak industry body has released three priority policies that it believes will save taxpayers money, increase Australia’s international competitiveness, strengthen the economy, create regional jobs and reduce urban congestion.

The three policies work together to promote a more efficient freight and supply chain through mode neutrality, smarter regulation and job creation.

The policies leverage ports’ unique positions as the gateway for Australia’s physical trade with 98 per cent moving through our sea ports.

Ports Australia Chief Executive, Mike Gallacher, said, “Ports are the starting and finishing points for exports and imports heading to and from Australian businesses and households.”

“With our growing population and even faster-growing freight task it is imperative that we start developing and implementing effective long-term plans for our freight network to support this country.

“We believe that an Australia with better-connected Ports that utilise the strength of each transport mode; the flexibility of trucking, connectivity of rail and capacity of shipping, can be a more internationally competitive country with a lower cost of living.”

“Our policies also include a caution that poor national freight and infrastructure planning will have compounded negative results. Of concern is the dwindling pool of maritime skills in this country able to run the Ports, Australia’s trade and economic gateways.”

Ports Australia’s three policies are:

  1. Improving lives through connected ports

Currently, 80 per cent of all freight trips to and from a port are conducted by truck adding to city congestion.

By better connecting Ports with rail and road networks and planning approaches to allow for sensible development around Ports, governments can reduce overall congestion, pollution and maintenance costs while increasing road safety through efficient and strategic truck movements.

Corridor protection and planning to link Ports with industrial zones and regions will also play a significant role in creating a liveable future for our cities.

“Connecting Ports to business and households through a smart freight network is one solution to many of our cities planning challenges,” Mr Gallacher said.

“A focus on increasing the use of rail to our Ports and improving the configuration of surrounding roads should be a priority for the next government.”

  1. Building maritime skills

Because Ports handle almost all of the country’s physical trade, Australia is particularly vulnerable to impacts created by a workforce lacking maritime skills.

Ports require highly specialised people who have had decades of experience to fill crucial Ports roles: harbour masters, pilots, tugs masters, hydrographers and land side operators.

“Over 60 per cent of skilled people in the sector 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,” Mr Gallacher said.

“Government needs to find ways to increase opportunities for Australians to enter the maritime industry. Our Ports around the country already run cadetship, internship and graduate programs but more needs to be done given there is a shortfall in mariners not just in Australia but globally.”

  1. Using Australia’s blue highway

Australia’s freight task will double by 2030 after already increasing by 50 per cent over the past 20 years. Our current and planned infrastructure cannot handle the growth in freight movements.

With over 80 per cent of our population living within 50km of the coast Australians are connected by the Blue Highway, an underutilised transport mode.

“Unfortunately, only 15 per cent of our domestic freight task is moved by ship,” Mr Gallacher said.

“We believe more non-time specific freight such as construction materials and fuel can be moved along our blue highway. This frees up space on our roads and rail while providing training opportunities for Australian mariners.

“Ports are a part of Australia’s future success story and we look forward to working with the government on implementing policies to support Australians through their Ports.

“Freight cooperation and planning is also part of the story. We urge all political parties to reach a bi-partisan agreement on strategy and for the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy to be released within the first 100 days of the incoming government,” Mr Gallacher concluded.

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