Australian-flagged ships sink to new record low

As Australia’s seafarers celebrate World Maritime Day, the number of Australian-flagged ships working the coast has sunk to an historic low.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) said despite the continuing trading growth at Australian ports, the size of Australian trading fleet has shrunk to just 96 ships, a decline of 15 per cent over the past eight years.

Worse, of the 96 ships, only 60 per cent are currently Australian registered and crewed. The past few months also saw the decommissioning of two Australian vessels, the Alltrans and Seakap

MUA Sydney branch secretary Warren Smith said the Australian shipping industry was “in trouble”.

“An island needs ships and Australia needs a vital and economically strong shipping industry. It’s clear that our island’s proud tradition of seafaring is on its last legs unless it gets the support it deserves from the Government,” Mr Smith said.

In stark contrast, the number of voyages carrying cargo between Australian ports undertaken by foreign-flagged vessels has surged by 56.4 per cent between 2005-06 and 2006-07. 

Mr Smith said loopholes in shipping regulation were exacerbating the Australian vessel trough, permitting the dramatic increase in the use of foreign ships.

“The government review of shipping policy and regulation is a critical step towards addressing these issues and ensuring the revitalisation of Australian shipping.

“The MUA will be looking for strong recommendations from the inquiry when it hands down its recommendations in mid-October,” he said.  

An independent review of Australian shipping was conducted in 2003. This March, following a key recommendation of the review, Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese commissioned an inquiry into coastal shipping policy and regulation.

Sunday costs more on the docks

Swandon Dock at night.

Swanson Dock at night.

(Image courtesy of the Port of Melbourne)

Additional costs arising from stevedore DP World’s Sunday operations must be passed on in the transport chain, the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) has argued.

In July, DP World Melbourne announced its West Swanson Terminal would treat Sunday as a normal receival, delivery and storage day from October, in response to the significant increase in the number of vessel calls and congestion at the terminal particularly over weekends.

Under the new policy, Sunday will be included as part of the three days of availability for the delivery of imports and as an export receival day. Storage charges will also accrue for ‘time-up’ containers on a Sunday.

VTA CEO Philip Lovel said the issues of handling container trade volumes effectively at the terminal were yet to be resolved.

“We continue to have significant dialogue with DP World on the issues. It is appreciated that while on average some 30 per cent of container volumes are received into West Swanson Terminal from vessels over weekends, only some 11 per cent of containers are distributed through the stevedore’s gate on a weekend,” Mr Lovel said.

“We also continue to work with transport companies to encourage greater uptake of vehicle booking slots at night and over weekends.

“This is having an effect, with more volumes moved by road in the Port of Melbourne during night-shifts and on weekends than in any other major capital city port in Australia,” he said.

However, he said additional costs were unavoidable because of the limited importer and exporter operating hours on weekends as well as very limited opportunities to de-hire empty containers on weekends, leading to further staging added costs.

He added that Customs’ container examination facility and some of the AQIS external wash facilities were shut on Sundays.

“The immediate practical outcome of DP World’s Sunday operations policy will be added costs in the landside logistics task ‘downstream’ from the stevedore’s gate, and increased terminal storage costs as containers become ‘time up’ on a Sunday,” Mr Lovel said.

“We have urged all road transport operators engaged in container transport to ensure that the added costs of transit operations and the additional costs of moving towards 24/7 operations must be borne by the end-use of their services – importers, exporters and freight forwarders.”

He said the container transport sector should push harder to solve the mismatch of operating hours across its chain to effectively cope with continuing container growth.

“Studies all point to the need for parties in the container transport chain to consider the ramifications of their existing operational practices against the realities of continued strong container trade growth and the pressures of 24/7 operations at the ocean terminal interface,” Mr Lovel said.

You can be the next forklift champion

In an effort to promote the importance of forklift operation and operators in the supply chain and logistics industry, the National Forklift Championships is on again.

The event, hosted by the Supply Chain and Logistics Association of Australia (SCLAA), will provide forklift operators with an opportunity to prove their driving skills, compete with others around Australia, win prize money, plus achieve national recognition as a champion.

Entries are open for all operators who have a valid forklift licence and can driver either a reach truck or counterbalanced forklift truck in racking.

Last year’s winners, Angela Mulloy from Pacific Brands and Trevor Webb from Sydney Markets, will defend their titles in Melbourne in April 2009.

The focus of the competition is on accurate and safe driving skills and knowledge, not on speed. Competitors start with a score of 0 and receive points for any errors made, with the participant with the lowest number of points becoming the winner.

All participants will receive a certificate of participation, with the winner(s) receiving a $3,000 worth of prize as well as a trophy.

The first round of heats for counterbalanced forklift operation is slated for this October and November across Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney.

Melbourne

October 21

Ausfork Training Centre

193 Maidstone Street

Altona, Victoria

(03) 9731 0456

Brisbane

October 31

AIMM Industrial Training

Unit 26, 315 Archerfield Road

Richlands, Queensland

(07) 3375 6699

Sydney

November 7

Schaefer Storage Systems

7 Church Street,

Moorebank, NSW

(02) 9487 8794 (SCLAA)

The second round of heats for reach truck operation will be held in February 2009, with additional heats to be scheduled depending on demand.

To participate in the National Forklift Championships, register by emailing nsw@sclaa.com.au or contact SCLAA NSW on (02) 9487 8794.

Virgin picks Sydney

Virgin Blue (AFP Photo: Greg Wood).

Virgin Blue has selected Sydney Airport for its jet base. (AFP Photo: Greg Wood)

Sydney Airport has been chosen as Virgin Blue’s new training and maintenance base, scheduled to be operational by the end of this year.

The new base, which is set to become a line maintenance hub for the airline’s Australian-based aircraft, is expected to provide a significant economic boost for the NSW economy, creating around 1,000 jobs and attracting more than $10 million of investment for the state’s aviation market.

A site at Botany will be utilised for the training of pilots and cabin crew.

NSW Development Minister Ian MacDonald said Sydney was the logical choice over other capital cities such as Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra.

“Virgin has shown confidence in Sydney and NSW by effectively creating 2,000 new jobs over the last six months in Sydney,” he told the ABC.

“It’s fantastic news for our economy that’ll bring a lot of economic benefits into NSW.”

Virgin Blue chief executive Brett Godfrey said the expansion was part of a direct investment of more than $60 million in NSW.

“If you consider the investment in infrastructure, particularly the Botany facility, I think…comfortably in excess of that,” Mr Godfrey told AAP.

Earlier this year, the carrier has also decided to house the operating headquarters of its new international long-haul brand V Australia at Mascot, NSW.  

While the company also operates similar facilities in Brisbane and Melbourne, their work will not be redirected to the Sydney hub as it will house part of an expanding fleet.

Transport think tank meets

The Victoria Transport Association’s (VTA) Industry Think Tank has held its first meeting to set priorities for the freight sector.

VTA president Paul Freestone said: “Whilst there is no silver bullet, it is the little things that add up. As an industry, we recognise the need to raise our profile in advocating the case for change.

“Now is the time to clearly articulate the issues, outline the opportunities that can be acted upon quickly, and do it.”

The Industry Think Tank was established to provide a focus for the sector in generating ideas and actions that can immediately improve the sector.

Revolving around the urban freight task, the meeting has suggested low-cost options including sequencing of traffic lights, re-marking of lanes, implementing clearways during peak hours and the introduction of high productivity vehicles.

The meeting also brought up longer term issues such as completing the Melbourne road network, improving intermodal freight linkages and a prioritised list of infrastructure projects. 

VTA CEO and chairman of the Think Tank Philip Lovel said as the freight industry came to face an unprecedented challenge with cost increases, a collaborative approach was essential to find innovated solutions.

“The cost of moving goods is going through the roof. In the past the freight sector could achieve efficiencies that meant the consumers were insulated. These opportunities have dried up, and the public is about to experience some real price increased because of these cost rises,” Mr Lovel said.

“We need to get together to find new ways of doing business, and to take more cost out of moving goods. Otherwise, the public will simply pay more, and jobs will be lost in the community.”

Also proposed at the meeting were a number of trials and case studies to “give freight a go”, including after hours access trials to local businesses, a 24/7 taskforce to demonstrate the benefits of wider access, high productivity vehicle trials and a rail efficiencies summit to map an action strategy.

“The Industry Think Tank will pursue these issues to achieve some immediate wins and to advocate future change,” Mr Lovel said.

“We have to take a positive attitude to meeting the future freight task. It’s better to find mutually acceptable innovative solutions, rather than adopting a negative attitude that things can’t be done.”

Mega car carrier sets sail

Wallenius Wilhelmsen's m/v ANIARA

The world’s largest car and truck carrier, m/v ANIARA.

Global shipping company Wallenius Wilhelmsen has added what is claimed to be “the world’s largest and most environmentally adapted” car and truck carrier, m/v ANIARA, to its fleet.

Built at the Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering yard in Korea, the vessel has a capacity of 8,000 cars with 71,673 gross tonnage, and is 231.6 metres high.

The company said advanced features of the vessel were reinforced and moveable vehicle decks and an extra wide and strong stern ramp, with maximum deck height also raised to 6.5 metres.

“These features make m/v ANIARA one of the most versatile and flexible RoRo vessels afloat,” it said.

The vessel is equipped with PureBallast, a chemical-free ballast water treatment system developed by Wallenius Water and Alfa Laval. It is to be approved by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

The company added: “The new vessel has 15 per cent lower CO2 emissions compared to earlier vessels, as well as reduced emissions of SOx, NOx and particulate matters.

“The vessel is also equipped with an electronically controlled main engine, assuring low emissions at part loads. To reduce NOx emissions, slide valves are installed on the main engine.”

The company said the vessel’s other environmental features included the use of tin-free bottom paints, biodegradable oil in all hydraulic systems and electronically controlled cylinder oil lubricators to minimise cylinder oil consumption. 

Qantas still safe: Dixon

Qantas mid-air explosion.

The Qantas mid-air explosion in July left a hole on the jet’s fuselage.

The lately accident-prone Qantas has said it would work closely with safety authorities to implement corrective actions, but Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese has warned the carrier could experience another incident.

A preliminary investigation report into the mid-air explosion in July found while the fuselage and some flight system sustained damage, the aircraft “continued to operate safely”.

The report released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said one of the B747-400’s oxygen system cylinders failed but safe operation enabled the aircraft to land in Manila without further incident.

The carrier’s chief executive Geoff Dixon said the ATSB’s preliminary conclusions were in line with its own investigation.

“We will continue to assist the ATSB to ensure the factors that may have contributed to the incident are understood and that any corrective actions ultimately identified are implemented,” he said.

He said the jet involved in the Manila accident would be repaired at a cost of less than $10 million to be back in service in this November.

He added the company would also collaborate with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to implement the recommendations included in its review of the airline’s engineering and maintenance operations. 

Deputy chief executive of CASA operations Mick Quinn said the authority has identified “emerging problems”.

“CASA has looked carefully at the Qantas maintenance systems and performance and uncovered signs of emerging problems,” he said in a statement.

“The review found maintenance performance with Qantas is showing some adverse trends and is now below the airline’s own benchmarks.”

Mr Dixon said these difficulties, while improving, would continue for a few weeks.

“These issues are not about safety or compliance and we are working to bring our network performance back to the standards which have earned us a reputation as one of the best and most reliable airlines in the world,” he said. 

The company underwent over the past 12 month more than 100 external audits, including 14 by CASA and on by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Commenting on air safety and the Qantas incident in Manila, Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese said this type of accident could happen again.

Mr Albanese said the government could step in to ensure any recommendations made by the ATSB are implemented.

“We need to put in place any measures from the report and recommendations that the ATSB make will be implemented in full by the government,” he told the Nine Network.

While “issues of concern” still remain, he said Qantas had coped with the accident extraordinarily well.   

“One of the things that must be not forgotten about this is the extraordinary response from the Qantas pilot and crew,” he said.

Meanwhile, the carrier faced yet another maintenance glitch early this week, when a Qantas flight from Singapore to London was diverted to Germany after vibration prompted one of its engines to be shut down. A company spokesperson said the Boeing 747-400 carrying 350 passengers landed in Frankfurt without incident.

Profits flow in to the Port of Melbourne

Port of Melbourne.

The Port of Melbourne has reported a net profit after tax of $43.3 million in the 2007/08 fiscal year, with the seventeenth consecutive year of growth in its core container trade being a key contributor.

Its total revenue grew $29.4 million to $171.5 million, while total expenditure fell $3.9 million to $103.8 million.

The strong result benefited from a 7.8 per cent increase in total container trade to 2.26 million TEU, making the Australian port one of the world’s top fifty container ports.

The port’s CEO Stephen Bradford said another year of solid financial result was made possible by its ongoing extensive capital investment program to secure the port’s long-term sustainability.

“In a challenging trading environment, which included higher fuel prices and ongoing drought conditions in south-eastern Australia, we have invested a further $48.5 million during the year in essential port infrastructure.

“To improve facilities for our customers and port users, we have now invested over $200 million in port infrastructure over the past five years, excluding the channel deepening project,” Mr Bradford said.

With an additional $126.8 million invested in the channel deepening project in the year, dredging for the project is now 31 per cent complete, amounting to a total volume of 7.25 million cubic metres dredged to date.

The port’s total net assets were now reported to be $1.2 billion and total trade grew by 6.7 per cent to 75.7 million tonnes in the year.

The company said nearly all cargo types contributed to the strong performance while liquid and dry bulk cargoes experienced marginal declines.

The 2007/08 dividend to the Victorian Government is scheduled to be paid in October this year.

Going on strike is no answer: ATA

Despite the hardships currently faced by the trucking industry, the proposed two-week shutdown from July 28 is not the answer, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) said.

ATA chairman Trevor Martyn said while trucking companies are in crisis due to the spiralling price of diesel, going on strike would not provide a solution to their difficulties.

“Many people in the trucking industry are now watching their life’s work collapse around them. But going on strike and standing around truck stops for two weeks isn’t the answer,” Mr Martyn said.

“The price of diesel is going up across the world because of China’s massive demand for fuel. Holding a two-week strike in Australia will have no effect on prices at all.”

He said instead of seeking an ineffective measure, trucking operators need to devise reasonable strategies by reviewing their costs on a weekly basis and negotiating with customers to lift freight rates.

“Some companies will need to increase their freight rates by more than 20 per cent,” he said.

“Most importantly, they need to refuse to accept jobs that do not pay enough to cover their costs.”

Mr Martyn added the introduction of new fatigue management laws in September is among the industry’s biggest concerns and called for a national uniform regulation to ward off inconsistencies.

He said: “The new laws will be an absolute fiasco, because the state and territory governments are out of control and have ignored the industry’s need for consistency across the state borders.

“The only solution is for the Australian Government to take over heavy vehicle regulation. The states have had their chance and failed. We need national regulation with strong involvement from the industry.”

Pacific National to develop Parkes Intermodal Terminal

Parkes Transport Hub

Asciano has announced that its rail subsidiary, Pacific National, has completed the purchase of 327 hectares of freehold land in the Parkes Multi-Modal Transport Hub, NSW, for the development of an intermodal freight terminal.

The freehold land has Concept Plans already approved by the NSW Minister of Planning for the development of an intermodal freight terminal and container storage and warehousing.

The site has sufficient land to accommodate the rail terminal and co-location of a container storage centre as well as national logistics and distribution facilities. A staged development will allow Pacific National the flexibility to add capacity to its intermodal operations as it is needed in the future.

The proposed terminal will increase the company’s ability to double-stack trains from Parkes to Perth originating out of Sydney, and will add capacity to handle additional rail freight volumes that are expected to grow significantly over the next 20 years.

Asciano managing director and chief executive officer, Mark Rowsthorn, said; “Located west of Parkes, the land sits right at the junction of the east-west interstate rail corridor and proposed Melbourne to Brisbane inland rail corridor.

“The proposed terminal will provide direct mainline access to both corridors and will ensure Pacific National has prime position on the proposed Inland Rail route”, he said.

Image Courtesy of Parkes Shire Council

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