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Australia to develop a national strategic fleet

Australia to develop a national strategic fleet
Australia to develop a national strategic fleet

The Australian government has announced it will build up a strategic fleet that will add resilience to the nation’s supply chain. The move comes after the Strategic Fleet Task Force was formed to develop Australia’s shipping fleet. 

The government hopes this fleet will improve Australia’s future maritime capability with an Australian-owned and crewed strategic fleet.

Minister for infrastructure and transport Catherine King says the shipping fleet will consist of up to 12 vessels. “The creation of a Strategic Fleet will build Australia’s resilience and protect our national security and economic sovereignty by enabling the movement of cargo in a time of crisis,” she says. 

A year in the making 

In January 2022, the then-opposition Australian Labor Party unveiled plans to establish a national independent strategic fleet of Australia-flagged vessels. 

The task force released a report which outlines the Strategic Fleet’s findings and recommendations. 

The report states the following: “Taskforce consultation shows that there is goodwill and interest from industry in supporting a strategic fleet and training initiatives, but that cost is a challenge.” In addition, the report recommends the government establish a strategic fleet levy on vessel arrivals to fund the national strategic fleet.  

Strategic fleet is bad

The bolstering of the nation’s shipping fleet has come under criticism from Shipping Australia. The organization represents Australian and international ship owners. It has tasked itself to promote and advance the interests of ship owners and shipping agents in all matters of shipping policy and safe environmentally sustainable ship operations.

An article published on the organization’s website titled “Strategic Failure Fleet policy is bad policy and should not proceed” gives a list of views on why this policy will fail. 

This includes the issue of the cost-of-living situation. “It will not cut costs; Australia is a high-cost country – this proposal has the potential to drive up costs during a cost-of-living crisis, especially if a possible levy is actually imposed on shipping,” read the article. 

Shipping Australia adds this type of initiative has been tried several times in Australia’s history, but it has always failed. This organization says among these failed attempts are:  

  • The Federal government-owned fleet, Commonwealth Lines, which failed (1928). 
  • The WA-owned Stateships failed (1995). 
  • The WA government subsidized service to replace Stateships also failed (2013). 

Australian freight and logistics market 

Mordor Intelligence reports the Australian freight and logistics market is to grow at an annual compounded annual growth rate of 4.04% in the next six years. 

Australia and the world are in the grips of a cost-of-living crisis. While the Strategic Fleet does propose that it will boost Australia’s maritime industry, and with some opposition to the initiative, is this the right time to introduce this fleet?

About the author

Sharl is a qualified journalist. He has over 10 years’ experience in the media industry, including positions as an editor of a magazine and Business Editor of a daily newspaper. Sharl also has experience in logistics specifically operations, where he worked with global food aid organisations distributing food into Africa. Sharl enjoys writing business stories and human interest pieces.

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