Australian-owned Bass Strait shipping operator SeaRoad Holdings has warned the Federal Government that its proposed Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill could jeopardise its $100-million investment on a second cargo vessel.
A report in ABC quoted SeaRoad CEO Michael Easy, saying that the proposed legislation "is likely to severely impact our current ship replacement plans".
The company said proposed changes to the legislation would only benefit foreign shipping interests. He said the removal of cabotage — the restrictions on foreign operators working coastal port-to-port business — would not bring benefits.
Michael said his company was in danger of losing its bank finance for two cargo ships, the first of which was to begin operating at the end of 2016, because the Abbott government now planned to dump the tax incentives and training subsidies introduced in 2013 by Labor.
"Central to these negotiations was the positive understanding that the government was actively promoting a reinvigoration of Australia's maritime industry by encouraging direct investment," Michael said in a submission to a Senate inquiry
Labor Senator Anne Urquhart said the new laws would remove barriers to foreign ships servicing the Australian coastline.
"There is absolutely no way that Australian ships employing Australian crew will be able to compete with the foreign-flagged ships paying third world wages," she said.
The deputy prime minister, Warren Truss, announced a range of shipping reforms in May. They include the creation of one single streamlined licence for ships that take cargo between domestic ports.
Workers aboard non-Australian flagged vessels will only be subject to Australian wages
and conditions if the ships trade in Australia for more than 183 days, around double the current cut-off rate.