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  1. Maritime

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Maritime transferred to the Department of Transport and Regional Services from the former Department of Workplace Relations and Small Business (Program 5) on 21 October 1998 and appears as Output Class 10 in the Department of Transport and Regional Services Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements 1998-99.

Responsibility for the Australian Maritime College under the Maritime College Act 1978 was transferred to Maritime from the Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs in October 1998.

Responsibility for the Seafarers' Compensation Scheme, under the Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1992, was retained within the Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business following the transfer of the Maritime subprogram to the Department of Transport and Regional Services.

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During 1998-99 Maritime Division pursued its objective of an internationally competitive maritime industry that is safe and environmentally responsible, through the:

  • provision of advice to the Minister in relation to international and domestic shipping policies;
  • administration of regulatory arrangements governing international liner and coastal shipping operations;
  • overseeing of such authorities as Australian National Line (ANL) Limited (subsequently renamed Australian River Co. Limited after the sale of the liner shipping business), Australian Maritime Safety Authority, the Maritime Industry Finance Company (MIFCo) and the Australian Maritime College; and
  • investigation of marine casualties associated with the operation of ships.

Maritime continued to have primary responsibility for the administration and implementation of the Commonwealth Government's waterfront reform package. A Bill increasing the amount under section 18 of the Stevedoring Levy (Collection) Act 1998 that may be authorised by the Minister in connection with stevedoring industry reform, from $250 million to $350 million, was introduced into Parliament in July 1999. Shipping reform was advanced through the provision of secretariat functions to the Shipping Reform Working Group, comprising representatives of the Department, shipowners, the offshore sector and bulk shippers.

As part of its responsibilities for the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme (TFES), Maritime provided advice on TFES Review Authority recommendations arising from the review of rates of assistance. The Government accepted the Review Authority recommendations and increased TFES funding by $15 million in the 1999-2000 Budget.

The Department affirmed the operation of the Service Arrangement with Centrelink for the delivery of both TFES and Bass Straight Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme (BSPVES). In December 1998 Hobart-based Maritime officers followed function and transferred to Centrelink in accordance with the Service Arrangement. Since that time Centrelink has been responsible for day-to-day delivery of the schemes, the Department continuing to be responsible for all policy matters.

Preparations for a review of the Navigation Act 1912 continued during the year and terms of reference for a review of Part X of the Trade Practices Act 1974 were developed in consultation with officers of the Department of the Treasury.

Maritime assisted the Office of Asset Sales and Information Technology Outsourcing (OASITO) to achieve Government objectives in the sale of ANL Limited.

Eight new members were appointed to the Australian Maritime College Council, ensuring the stable operation of the College. Maritime continued to promote the advantages of competitive international shipping through its participation in such various international forums as Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Maritime was particularly active in the areas of electronic commerce, maritime safety and trade facilitation within APEC and the promotion of Australian maritime training expertise in the Asia-Pacific.

Maritime also represented Australia's interests in a range of international environmental treaty-making matters before the International Maritime Organization (IMO), seeking to achieve a balanced outcome between environment protection and the promotion of Australia's economic interests.

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Waterfront reform package

Throughout 1998-99 the Department had primary responsibility for the administration and implementation of the Government's waterfront reform package. The package incorporated seven performance benchmark objectives for the waterfront:

  • ending overmanning and restrictive work practices;
  • raising container crane productivity to a national 5-port average of 25 lifts per hour;
  • improving reliability, particularly reducing industrial disputation;
  • lowering the high work-related injury and fatality levels;
  • assisting in lessening costs throughout the logistics chain to the waterfront;
  • making effective use of technology; and
  • promoting training programs.

The MIFCo was established in 1998 as a wholly-owned Commonwealth company to fund redundancy-related payments for employees retrenched as a result of stevedoring reform. MIFCo now has a syndicated $220 million cash advance facility to be used to fund redundancies. MIFCo provides a separate annual report to Parliament under the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997.

The Department collects the new stevedoring levy in accordance with the Stevedoring Levy (Imposition) Act 1998 and Stevedoring Levy (Collection) Act 1998. The levy came into effect in February 1999, $11.03 million was collected in 1998-99 and an estimated $24.98 million will be collected in a full financial year. The levy is used to fund waterfront reform and to repay loans raised by MIFCo.

In July 1999 the Stevedoring Levy (Collection) Amendment Bill 1999 (the Bill) was introduced to the Parliament. The Bill increases the amount under section 18 of the Stevedoring Levy (Collection) Act 1998 that may be authorised by the Minister in connection with stevedoring industry reform, from $250 million to $350 million. The Bill has been referred to the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee, due to report to the Senate by 24 August 1999.

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Marine and Ports Group

The Department provided the Chair and Secretariat for the Marine and Ports Group (MPG) of the Australian Transport Council (ATC). MPG advises the ATC on maritime transport policy issues of national importance. It comprises Commonwealth, State, Northern Territory and New Zealand maritime officials and the Executive Director of the Association of Australian Ports and Marine Authorities.

The Department managed a study undertaken for the MPG of measures to promote effective and efficient container-port practices. The Department also contributed to policy being developed by MPG to ensure that small vessels in Australia have continuing access to safety radio services after the introduction of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System.

The Department is also progressing amendments to the Navigation Act 1912 to implement revised jurisdiction for safety regulation based on vessel tonnage. It is expected that the amendments will take effect from 1 January 2001.

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Tasmanian assistance measures

The Department administers the TFES and BSPVES.

In July 1998 the Department of Workplace Relations and Small Business entered into a Service Arrangement with Centrelink for the delivery of TFES and BSPVES. The Department of Transport and Regional Services has reaffirmed the operation of the Service Arrangement with Centrelink. Hobart-based Maritime officers were transferred to Centrelink in December 1998 in accordance with the Service Arrangement. Since that time Centrelink has been responsible for day-to-day delivery of the schemes, the Department remaining responsible for TFES and BSPVES policy matters.

During 1998-99, 3951 claims for TFES assistance were processed (4327 in 1997-98) worth some $41.8 million. The northbound component of the Scheme amounted to $32.1 million and the southbound component $9.7 million. Average processing time for claims was six days.

The TFES Review Authority undertook a comprehensive review of TFES rates of assistance and provided an advisory opinion to the Government containing 16 recommendations for their modification. The Government accepted its recommendations and increased TFES funding by $15 million in the 1999-2000 Budget. The modified Scheme was implemented as of 1 July 1999. As part of the roll-out of the modified TFES, Centrelink mailed information packages detailing changes to more than 700 TFES clients and other interested parties in May 1999.

The BSPVES was introduced in September 1996 to reduce the cost disadvantage of a driver travelling with a passenger vehicle across Bass Strait. The scheme provides a driver with a fare rebate of up to $300 return, depending on the season of travel. Since its introduction there has been a significant increase in travel across Bass Strait. During 1998-99 some 123 395 passenger vehicles and 343 339 passengers were carried across Bass Strait by TT Line, compared to 111 362 passenger vehicles and 313 740 passengers in 1997-98. Rebates totalling $14.8 million were provided to eligible passengers during 1998-99 compared to $12.8 million in 1997-98. The Bureau of Transport Economics confirmed the effectiveness of the BSPVES in its second monitoring report.

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Single and Continuing Voyage Permits

In 1998-99, Maritime issued 704 Single Voyage Permits (SVPs) for the carriage of 6.9 million tonnes of cargo. Forty-one Continuing Voyage Permits (CVPs) were issued. By comparison, 788 SVPs were issued in 1997-98 and no CVPs. The increased utilisation of CVPs is seen as a significant improvement in the availability of transport options for shippers.

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Shipping reform

As part of the Government's ongoing reform of the Australian shipping agenda, the Minister for Transport and Regional Services established the Shipping Reform Working Group in December 1998. The group comprises representatives of the Commonwealth, the shipping industry, the offshore sector and bulk shippers. It reported how best to implement recommendations from the earlier Shipping Reform Group review to achieve the greatest benefit to the economy, on the competitiveness of the indigenous industry, and support measures provided in other countries and other Australian industries. Maritime provided its secretariat.

Activity during the year focused on liaising with industry on the move from industry pool employment arrangements to direct company employment. The change provided an impetus for productivity improvements aboard Australian ships, as well as providing greater certainty of employment for seafarers. In August 1998, employers and the maritime unions agreed to almost 200 redundancies to eliminate surplus labour in the industry. The standard industry manning level decreased from 18 to 17, one of the lowest manning levels in the world. This major reform in Australian shipping was achieved without industrial disputation.

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Sale of ANL Limited

During the year Maritime assisted the OASITO to achieve the Government's objective of a successful sale of ANL Limited (and its constituent businesses).

The operating business units comprising the company were successfully sold during the year to various private sector operators. As at 30 June 1999, the Commonwealth has benefited from the sale to the extent of approximately $82 million from a reduction in Commonwealth liabilities, special dividends and sale monies. Some residual financial matters remain to be administered by the shell of ANL Limited, which is now called Australian River Co. Limited.

Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1991

The Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1991 and associated Regulations provide a framework for the implementation of a package of new liability measures that extend the scope of carrier's liability for loss of and damage or delay to cargo. To implement the package, the Department prepared the Carriage of Goods by Sea Regulations that came into force on 1 July 1998 and the Carriage of Goods by Sea Regulations 1998 (No. 2) that came into force on 10 December 1998. The package provides for:

  • the coverage of a wider range of sea carriage documents (including documents in electronic form);
  • the coverage of contracts of carriage of goods by sea from places in countries outside Australia to places in Australia where the contracts do not incorporate, or otherwise have effect subject to, a relevant international convention;
  • increased coverage of deck cargo;
  • an extension to the period during which carriers may incur liability; and
  • carriers to be liable for loss due to delay in circumstances identified as being inexcusable.

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Maritime trade

Maritime is leading projects in the APEC Transportation Working Group (TPT-WG) to promote an efficient, safe and competitive operating environment for maritime transport in the APEC region, and to encourage the implementation of electronic commerce. Australia worked closely with a number of countries in developing the following initiatives: a safer shipping project; development of the TPT-WG website; a training program to assist APEC businesses in the implementation of electronic commerce; a seminar, 'Electronic Commerce 2010 - Producing Better Business Outcomes with Electronic Commerce in the New Millennium'; and the inclusion of the paperless trading initiative (aimed at streamlining transport, freight, customs and other transactions throughout the APEC region) in the APEC Electronic Commerce Blueprint for Action.

Maritime participated in the Australian delegation to the IMO Legal Committee which considered the development of the draft Compensation for Pollution from Ships' Bunkers Convention. Maritime continued to participate in IMO consideration of draft conventions for passenger insurance and wreck removal and the technical implementation of the Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, 1996.

The Department represented Australia at the Maritime Transport Committee of the OECD meetings in November 1998 and June 1999. The Committee discussed policy issues associated with an action plan for safer shipping, common shipping principles and treatment of support measures. Australia has also pursued closer bilateral relations with Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Indonesia. Seven maritime training projects are currently being managed by the Australian Maritime Training network in Indonesia and the Philippines.

The IMO at the Maritime Safety Committee Meeting in May 1998 adopted the Indonesian proposal for three north-south archipelagic sea-lanes. Australia, in conjunction with the United States of America and Indonesia, developed a draft Safety of Navigation Circular as a guide for mariners about the operational significance to the navigation of ships in transit where archipelagic sea-lanes have been designated. The circular was discussed at the Navigation Subcommittee in July 1998 and approved by the Maritime Safety Committee in December 1998.

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Navigation Act 1912

The Government announced in December 1997 a two-stage review of the Navigation Act 1912. The Navigation Amendment (Employment of Seafarers) Bill 1998 to implement the first stage was passed by the House of Representatives on 31 March 1999. The Senate Selection of Bills Committee referred the Bill to the Employment, Workplace Relations, Small Business and Education Legislation Committee, which tabled its report on 12 August 1999. Mr R M Taylor, AO has been appointed as chairperson of the Steering Committee for the second stage of the review. The review commenced in August 1999 and is expected to report by July 2000.

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Part X of the Trade Practices Act 1974

Officials from Maritime and the Department of the Treasury developed terms of reference for the Productivity Commission's review of Part X of the Trade Practices Act 1974, which were approved by the Minister for Transport and Regional Services and the Treasurer in March 1999. The review commenced on 12 March 1999 and is expected to be complete by September 1999.

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Environment policies and programs

Maritime contributed to the development of Australia's Oceans Policy released in December 1998. Specific measures for the maritime sector address economic development, industry efficiency and environmental concerns affecting ports and shipping.

As a party to the National Plan to Combat Pollution of the Sea by Oil and Other Noxious and Hazardous Substances (the National Plan), the Government agreed to review the current National Plan. The Department is a member of the Steering Committee responsible for delivering the review.

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Marine Incident Investigation Unit: investigations of marine incidents

The Marine Incident Investigation Unit conducted investigations into 14 marine incidents comprising three groundings, five fires, two lifeboat accidents, one engine failure and two collisions. Nine reports were completed on investigations started before 1 July 1998, and four completed on investigations started after that date. At least 900 copies of each report were printed and circulated to the maritime community within Australia and overseas. Reports are also available on the Unit's website.

The time taken to complete an investigation and report on the findings depends on the Unit's total workload, the complexity of the incident, whether or not those who should be provided with a draft report for comment live overseas, and the degree of consultation required to ensure the report is fair and accurate. As a target, a modal time of 27 weeks has been adopted in which to complete an investigation and issue a report. Due to the secondment of the Inspector of Marine Accidents to a Naval Board of Inquiry and that half the investigations involved overseas ships, the modal time in 1998-99 for report publication was about 36 weeks. The Inspector was a civilian member of the Naval Board of Inquiry into the fire on board HMAS Westralia. The report on that incident was finalised on 28 August 1998.

The Unit compiled a new syllabus for the IMO model course 'Marine Accident and Incident Investigation', promoting a standard approach to marine incident investigations. The Inspector of Marine Accidents conducted the model course at the International Maritime Academy, Trieste, in March 1999.

Four incidents were investigated jointly with other countries, two with New Zealand and one each with Canada and Japan.

The Unit was transferred to the newly established Australian Transport Safety Bureau on 1 July 1999.

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