The Launceston Chamber of Commerce has provided a submission to the Federal Government urging for the deregulation of coastal shipping to benefit Tasmania.

According to The Chamber, Launceston and Northern Tasmania has suffered considerably from increased costs and timeliness for exports and imports of freight as a result of the enacting of the Coastal Shipping Legislation in 2012. Maree Tetlow the Executive Officer at Launceston Chamber of Commerce said that ”as far as I understand the Coastal Shipping Legislation was one factor in the withdrawal of the AAA Shipping vessel from Bell Bay - as they could no longer call into Freemantle to drop-off and collect freight for ports in Asia.”

Ms Tetlow went on to say that “The State Government have commenced their Expression of Interest process for a subsidy for a new export service for Tasmania which is an excellent initiative. If the Australian Government deregulates the shipping market, this will provide more options for smaller international freight vessels to service Tasmania in combination with another Australian port – so hopefully any export service that is secured is more sustainable into the future.”

Ms Tetlow said “the loss of the AAA service from Bell Bay to Singapore (via Freemantle) has meant that costs have increased for business in Northern Tasmania. They must now ship their goods by road or rail to Burnie and trans-ship their goods through Melbourne where there are additional port and handling fees to absorb. The Chamber argues this is a major impediment for future business investment in agricultural-related production, specialised manufacturing, and other products with an export focus. It is also costing more for Tasmanians to receive goods from overseas.” The Chamber provides the following specific examples:

1. Export Honey Producer - advised that the honey takes an extra 15 days to get to Singapore due to the need to travel via the Port of Melbourne. Plus it costs around an extra $140 per cubic metre or equivalent to $4000 per container.

2. Furniture Retailer - imports furniture from overseas locations. All containers now trans-ship through Melbourne resulting in increased delivery times and also adds increased potential for further delays. The containers are now unloaded at Burnie or Devonport ports resulting in increased road costs and delivery times. Costs have increased around $2000 per container. “These increased transit times and delivery costs definitely have an impact on us as an importer and our customers making a purchasing decision."

3. Tile Importer – since the loss of the AAA service the freight bill has increased by $300,000 per annum. These costs flow through to the Tasmanian consumer. Originally the Coastal Shipping Legislation was introduced to develop the Australian shipping industry, enhance competition, and contribute to the Australian economy.

According to Ms Tetlow “In reality, and according to the Federal Government’s own report the Australian shipping industry has declined since the introduction of this legislation – and it has not served Tasmania well. It is reducing our capacity to increase investment to the State, as the cost and timeliness of export freight is current an impediment to any investment consideration.”

Ms Tetlow concluded that “we all appreciate that exports and business is a global industry, and like car manufacturing, we are not immune to competitive global influences. But if we are expected to attract investment and new projects which result in jobs, we need the flexibility for international carriers to service our needs so we can compete globally.” The Chamber supported Option 2 of the Review –the deregulation of the Australian Shipping Industry with amendments to other regulation to allow this to occur.

A link to the Federal Governments Options/Review paper is below: