Coronavirus restriction putting Australian resilience at risk

Malcolm Latarche

Malcolm Latarche · 19 March 2020


Shipping Australia – an umbrella body representing shipping lines and port agents has slammed a decision by Maritime Safety Queensland to bar ships from entry to ports until 14 days has elapsed since the last port call.

Shipping Australia’s Chief Executive Officer, Rod Nairn, commented: “The MSQ policy is reckless and indefensible, cargo ship crews are probably the lowest risk sector in the world with not one cargo ship crew member yet being confirmed as having COVID-19”.


Several shipping services to / from Australia are only six to eight days duration and ships would have to potentially wait around for up to 14 days to enter. And that’s at a cost of A$25,000 a day. When a port entry costs about A$250,000 a time, shipping lines are indicating that these directions from port authorities to stay away are simply unsustainable.

Some shipping lines may well be forced to omit port calls or, in the worst case scenario, stop calling at Australia altogether. That will lead to massive re-location of cargo away from where it is supposed to be and it will have to be trucked across the continent. Trucking costs could escalate. Australia is a big place – it will take days upon days to get to where it is needed. Costs to everyday Australians could rocket.

Australia also serves as a hub for the less developed nations in the Pacific, along with Papua New Guinea. Blocking shipping’s ability to deliver desperately needed freight to the Islands is not an optimal outlook. Meanwhile, New Zealand and Australia BOTH have 14-day exclusion periods. So, as of now, the Aus-New Zealand trade is being killed off.

Border authorities and port authorities in Australia and around the world, are beginning to close their borders. Those authorities must recognise that shipping companies are protecting the health of their seafarers and the health of everyday Australians through a wide variety of measures such as restricting the ability of crew to go onshore (who are mostly self-isolating anyway to protect their own health), restricting entry to vessels to essential personnel, requiring the use of protective equipment and sanitizer, and by frequent monitoring the health of seafarers.

Shipping Australia has called on politicians, border authorities and port authorities around the world to see the bigger picture and recognise the importance of freight and shipping. People everywhere are in desperate need of food, medicines and everyday goods. And only shipping can deliver it to them in the huge volumes needed.

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