Queensland restricts international cargo ships from entering border

Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) has placed a ban on all commercial ships from entering ports in Queensland if the ship, or any person onboard, has been in any country outside of Australia within the last 14-days.

However, following industry lobbying, MSQ has announced there will be  ‘country specific’ exemptions for vessels departing from New Zealand, PNG, South West Pacific and Singapore origin.

Angus Mitchell, MSQ general manager said vessels departing from these countries have been deemed eligible for exemption based on its ability to prove the countries have taken early and proactive national measures to control borders to incoming passengers, current rates of in-country infection are reported as low, verified port precautionary practices, and its geographical isolation.

He said in the case of Papua New Guinea and South West Pacific Islands, the continued provision of essential goods is critical for these isolated and vulnerable nations during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

“Assessments will be based on whether the request is justified as being ‘a significant disruption to the supply of essential trade to the State’ as well as whether ‘sufficient risk mitigation measures can be demonstrated, and verified, that protect Queensland’s maritime workforce,” Angus said.

Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA) and the Australian Peak Shippers Association (APSA) have given a commitment to Shipping Australia Limited (SAL) to support an “all of industry” advocacy approach to reverse the Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) ban on all commercial shipping.

Rod Nairn, Shipping Australia’s CEO said on Wednesday 18th March before the MSQ announced exemptions for vessels that Shipping Australia is strongly opposed to any 14-day ban on cargo ships entering any port.

“Australians need regular cargo ship calls to maintain the supply of vital imports and Australia’s economy is completely dependent on exports by sea,” he said.

“Every day that a ship is at sea costs about A$25,000,”

“Shipping lines simply cannot afford to pay for ships to uselessly wait around and not deliver freight for six to ten days while they wait for a 14-day period to elapse.”

FTA advised they supported the actions of Shipping Australia to reverse the ban as an “all of industry” approach.

John Park, head of business operations at FTA said the organisation applauds the change to exempt countries and trust that similar considerations will be provided to some of Australia’s other close neighbors including Singapore and Malaysia.

Paul Zalai, FTA director said in a members update on Friday 20th March that its encouraging news that the Australian Border Force (AFB) are working through the specific arrangements for maritime crew.

Southern Ports has banned ships from the ports of Albany, Bunbury and Esperance until 14-days has passed from the last port of call and arriving in Australia. The Port Authority of New South Wales has also restricted some ships that have last docked at certain countries from docking in Australia.

As of time of print on Friday 20th March, international maritime crew will be permitted to enter Australia to join a vessel, ships and their crews arriving at Australian Ports will be permitted to berth and operate and crew signing off a vessel at an Australian port will be permitted to transit and depart Australia, or proceed to join another vessel in Australia.

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