Last Nail in Coffin of Australian Shipping

Repeal of ANL Act highlights Government’s failure to support Australian shipping.

Australian National Line Princess of Tasmania, out of service at South Wharf, Yarra River, (Garden City) Port Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, in 1972. Credit ~John Ward

The repeal of legislation related to the former publicly-owned shipping company Australian National Line (ANL), which was sold to a French owner, highlights the ongoing failure of the federal government’s to support a strong domestic shipping industry, according to the Maritime Union of Australia.

The primary aim of the ANL Legislation Repeal Bill, which passed the Senate last night, was to remove legal protection for a number of business names formerly used by the Commonwealth shipping company, including: ANL; Australian National Line; Maritime Agencies of Australia; and Searoad.

The ANL was formed in 1956 as the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission through the ACSC Act., and acquired an existing forty ships in service. In 1974 the ACSC became the ASC, and in 1989 the ANL was established as a wholly-owned government company.

During it’s long history, ANL and its predecessors owned and operated about 112 ships, including household names such as Empress of Australia, Princess of Tasmania, Australian Trader, and, sadly, the Lake Illawarra that collided (then sank) with Hobart’s Tasman Bridge, causing 12 deaths.

SS (aka MV) Lake Illawarra, that collided with Hobart’s Tasman Bridge in 1975. Credit ~ Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office

The Maritime Union of Australia said the Federal Government had found time to debate legislation with the sole aim of allowing a foreign shipping company to use names that deceptively suggested they were based in Australia, but was missing in action when it came to protecting what remains of Australia’s domestic fleet.

The Morrison Government has found the time to draw up legislation to allow the foreign owner of the former Commonwealth shipping line to use business names and domain names that deceptively suggest an ongoing link to Australian shipping, yet they’ve been unwilling to do anything to actually support the local industry or seafarers,” Maritime Union of Australia national secretary Paddy Crumlin said.

ANL isn’t based in Australia, it no longer employs Australian seafarers, yet the Federal Government is passing legislation that is solely aimed at assisting this foreign business by removing restrictions on its use of deceptive business names likes Australian National Line and Maritime Agencies of Australia.

It is embarrassing enough that the Australian National Line is no longer Australian, but it is truly insulting that the Morrison Government is putting more legislative effort into assisting this foreign company than they do to assist what remains of our domestic shipping industry.”

Mr Crumlin said the Federal Government should be focusing its energies on supporting Australia’s economic and national security by investing in the strengthening of our domestic shipping industry.

The number of Australian-owned and crewed vessels is continuing to shrink, with thousands of jobs lost in recent decades,” Mr Crumlin said.

Not only has this had substantial economic and social impacts, it has left our island nation extremely vulnerable to any global conflicts or economic shocks that may disrupt maritime trade.

Rather than support Australian shipping, the Morrison Government has continued to issue licenses to foreign flag of convenience vessels to operate in our waters, supply our fuel, carry our resources, and move cargo around the coast.

These vessels, which our nation is now almost entirely dependent on, are often registered in tax havens and crewed by exploited visa workers on as little as $2 per hour.

There is a genuine crisis in Australian shipping, and it has potentially serious implications for all Australians, yet rather than take action, the Morrison Government is wasting their time with this insignificant and irrelevant legislation.”

Below ~ The Australian Trader’s keel was laid 27th September 1967, and launched 17th February 1969 at Newcastle’s State Dockyard. The ship operated Melbourne – Devonport as passenger and roll-on roll-off vehicular ferry, later Sydney to Tasmania. In 1977 it was bought by the Royal Australian Navy, renamed “HMAS Jervis Bay,” for training and troop transport. Read more here.