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EDITORIAL November 2010
As we go to press I am working on the final arrangements for our AUSMARINE
2010 Exhibition and Conference.
This will be the first such event we have held in Australia since 2004. A lot has
happened in the intervening six years.
The whole Australian maritime scene has changed dramatically over the past decade.
As with most other major trading nations this has a lot to do with the rapid expansion
of the Chinese and, to a lesser extent, Indian economies.
As a major exporter of minerals and fossil fuels, Australia has benefitted substantially
from this Asian economic expansion. It seems certain to continue to benefit for the
next decade and probably well beyond that.
The massive increase in mineral and LNG exports has inspired a huge boom in oil
and gas development and the construction of major new ports and terminals to
facilitate it. Enormous investments are being made practically right around the very
lengthy Australian coast.
Simultaneously, however, Australia has experienced an equally dramatic shrinking of
many of its more traditional maritime activities. For example, an unholy alliance of
green extremists and government has very effectively destroyed about 75 percent of the
local commercial fishing industry.
And, similarly, a probably unintentional conspiracy between the Maritime Union of
Australia and the previous federal government has managed to vaporise about 80
percent of the Australian flagged merchant fleet.
These two major factors, among others, have completely changed the face of the
Australian shipbuilding industry over the past decade. Apart from Defence, which is still
the biggest dollar value consumer of ships, the steel shipbuilding section is dead for all
Australia still dominates the global aluminium shipbuilding sector. Such vessels are
mostly fast ferries and patrol boats. This situation continues but not so frenetically
To all intents and purposes, fishing boat building in any medium has ceased. In the
1970s, 1980s and 1990s at least 100 new FRP, aluminium or steel fishing boats were
delivered each year. In the "noughties", the figure has dwindled to two or three per annum.
That is the bad news. The good news is that the market for new vessels is not only
strong but strengthening. There has been a boom in deliveries of tugs, offshore service
vessels, construction vessels, general work boats and patrol boats over the past five
years. However, only the patrol and general work boats are being built locally.
All the tugs and most of the OSVs, except for the fast aluminium crew boats, are
being imported. Most come from ASEAN countries and China with a couple of tugs
from New Zealand.
The dollar value of these imported vessels is substantial and rising rapidly. The same
applies to the engines and propulsion systems and most of the equipment going in to
the locally constructed boats. Practically all of it is imported.
In the larger, cargo shipping sector, practically all the export trade is carried out in
foreign flagged vessels. Despite the vociferous protests of the MUA, coastal cargo
carrying is also increasingly the domain of foreign owners.
Overall, then, globalisation and economic rationalism have had a substantial and
dramatic influence on the Australian maritime industry generally. While some sectors,
especially the fishing industry and its suppliers, have suffered badly, the wider result has
been positive. The maritime industry is probably in better shape than ever and the
future looks promising indeed.
It is a dramatically different industry but it is much bigger, stronger and far more
promising overall. This is very clearly reflected in the very substantial foreign
component of both the exhibitors and pre-registered visitors for AUSMARINE 2010.
I suggest that anyone wanting to gain a good overview of the current and near future
state of the Australian maritime industry would be well advised to attend our
AUSMARINE Exhibition and its associated Conferences. It is scheduled for November 23
to 25 at the Perth Convention Exhibition Centre.
I hope to see you there.
Bigger, more international
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