(updated 09 06 23)
Strategic Fleet – it’s overdue
Bill Shorten was the guest of honour at the AIMPE Annual Federal Council dinner in Sydney on 7th June 2023. AIMPE was pleased to welcome Bill as he spoke about his recollections as a boy exploring the Melbourne waterfront with his father (also Bill Shorten) after Bill senior ceased his seagoing career as a marine engineer.
Minister Shorten being thanked by AIMPE President Martin Byrne
Minister Shorten also spoke strongly in support of the Federal Government’s policy in favour of a Maritime Strategic Fleet. The second report of the Strategic Fleet Taskforce is due by the end of this month and it will hopefully lay out the pathway to the expansion of the Australian flag merchant fleet. Here is further detail from the Minister’s speech.
You may be aware that as Labor leader, I announced our commitment to an Australian merchant marine if we formed government in 2019.
I’m really pleased the Albanese Government has kept his policy which recognised the crucial role of your industry when it committed to establishing a Maritime Strategic Fleet.
My Parliamentary colleague and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, the Hon Catherine King appointed a taskforce to guide the establishment of Australia’s Maritime Strategic Fleet, and I applaud her leadership on this.
The goal is to strengthen our economic sovereignty and support national security through a fleet of 12 Australian flagged and crewed ships.
I’m sure you’re pleased that it will also look at the legislative or regulatory reforms necessary to support the Strategic Fleet and Australian shipping.
We need a good framework if we are going to optimise the fleet’s potential.
It speaks to the importance of a merchant fleet to Australia’s economic and security success. That became clear during Covid and the strain it put on global supply chains.
With more than 98 per cent of the nation’s imports and exports carried by sea, merchant shipping kept the nation going.
And in recent times of natural disaster, merchant ships have come to the rescue – whether it was delivering supplies to Fitzroy Crossing, or evacuating people from Mallacoota during Black summer.
These workhorses and their crews offered their services with little fuss but were given heroes welcomes.
And we must never forget more than 800 Australian merchant mariners died during the first and second world wars…
…while maintaining supplies of goods and materials vital for the war effort.
The skills and expertise, the commitment to a job that straddled the world of civilian and soldier – says much about the seafarer’s heart.
Today, we have fewer trading ships fly our red ensign, and as an island nation, we need less reliance on foreign-owned ‘flag of convenience’ vessels……whose loyalty would lie elsewhere in a time of disruption.
We need a Strategic Fleet. It’s overdue.
Here is the full text of the Minister Shorten's prepared address:
Speech Mr Bill Shorten Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Minister for Government Services.pdf
Note: the venue for the function was The Fenwick restaurant which is situated on the waterfront at Balmain East directly opposite the area which was formerly the Darling Harbour wharves and has now become Barangaroo. The building was used for many decades by J Fenwick & Co for its Sydney tug operations.
AIMPE Recommends Yes for Svitzer EA
The AIMPE Federal Executive has with some reservations decided to recommend to members employed by Svitzer Australia to Vote Yes to the proposed Svitzer National EA 2023.
AIMPE has worked very closely with the AMOU and the MUA/CFMMEU over the almost four years of negotiations since the expiry of the 2016 Agreement. AIMPE has helped fight off the attempt by Svitzer to terminate the 2016 Agreement which would have chopped out the foundations of employment conditions for Svitzer employees. AIMPE lobbied to have the law about termination of EAs changed so that it is now much more difficult for companies to do this during bargaining. The law was changed in December as a result of the lobbying organised by the ACTU. This change will serve to better protect all employees working under Enterprise Agreements.
The bargaining which followed the change in the law was of a different character. Eventually Svitzer had to accept that the ground rules had changed. Svitzer was forced to withdraw its futile legal action by the combined and determined resistance of the three maritime unions. Svitzer simply had to revise its bargaining strategy.
Svitzer backed away from its extreme claims to cut pay and conditions – which were particularly focused on the most vulnerable groups of employees – the casuals and part time workers. The attack on casuals and part timers was one of the main reasons that Svitzer’s last attempt to force its agenda on the workforce failed. 92% of Svitzer Australia’s tug employees voted NO in late 2021 to reject the drastic cuts concocted by Copenhagen.
The current proposed EA is a vast improvement on that 2021 document. Most existing conditions have been preserved. Key issues for Tug Engineers including recruitment, qualifications and maintenance have been defended to the maximum extent possible with much appreciated support from AMOU and MUA delegates and officials.
For over a year, members have faced rising inflation and increasing interest rates. It is now time to accept the pay settlement and at least claw back some of the cost of living increases. The pay deal is as follows:
- $2,500 sign-on bonus
- 5% from 1 April 2023
- CPI from 1 January 2024 – capped at 5% [minimum 2%]
- CPI from 1 January 2025 = capped at 4% [minimum 2%]
- CPI from 1 January 2026 – capped at 4% [minimum2%]
- CPI from 1 January 2027 - capped at 4% [minimum 2%]
This package provides for up to 22% in increases (24% with compounding) over 4 years with a minimum of 13% (13.7% with compounding) plus the sign-on bonus which is a reasonable outcome in the current circumstances.
This has been a very trying period for Svitzer members. It is now time to conclude the process and approve the proposed Agreement.
Here is the resolution adopted by the AIMPE Federal Executive:
“That the AIMPE Federal Executive notes the statement issued by Fair Work Commissioner Riordan and recommends to members employed by Svitzer that they Vote Yes in the ballot to approve the Svitzer National EA 2023. The draft Agreement is far from perfect but it is a far better outcome than looked possible during 2022. The draft Agreement protects casuals and part time employees whose conditions were under serious threat from Svitzer’s aggressive attacks on its employees. It also secures detailed outcomes on recruitment, qualifications and maintenance which are very important to tug members.”
Here is the recommendation issued by Fair Work Commissioner Riordan:
AIMPE & AMOU Submission on Hunter REZ
(uploaded 21 04 23)
The AIMPE and AMOU have lodged a submission with the Department of Climate Change consultation about the Hunter Offshore Renewable Energy Zone.
AIMPE and AMOU are strongly supportive of the development of Offshore Renewable Energy projects including Offshore Wind farms. This will be a big part in the "Just Transition for Seafarers" in Australia in the decades ahead.
The unions made this statement in the submission:
AIMPE and AMOU Support the Proposal for a Hunter Offshore Renewable Energy Zone
AIMPE and AMOU are strongly supportive of the concept of developing Offshore renewable energy generally and off the NSW Hunter coast in particular. Since the closure of the Newcastle Steelworks over 20 years ago there has been a lack of major investment in the region and as a consequence a lack of economic development in the Hunter. The unions also support the development of other REZs elsewhere around Australia including the NSW Illawarra coast, the Tasmanian coast, the Victorian coast and the WA coast.
AIMPE and AMOU believe that the Hunter Offshore Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) could generate a significant amount of investment in a series of projects. These projects could also be the catalyst for new investments in shore-based industries associated with the construction and operation of the renewable energy projects as well as new industries which could take advantage of the green energy produced.
The unions have however expressed concerns about the workforce issues and the need for training to ensure that Australia has the pool of maritime professionals it will need to build and operate these renewable energy facilities.
The full submission can be found here:
AIMPE AMOU Submission re Hunter Offshore REZ 21_04_23.pdf
Hunter offshore wind
(13 03 23)
The momentum for the establishment of Offshore Wind in Australia took another step forward in February when the Federal Government opened its consultation period for the Hunter Offshore Renewable Energy Zone.
Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen made the announcement in Newcastle together with Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon and State and Local Government representatives.
The consultation period is open until 28th April 2023. Interested members should go to the Department of Climate Change website - Consultation hub | Offshore renewable energy infrastructure area proposal: Pacific Ocean off Hunter - Climate Change (dcceew.gov.au).
AIMPE has previously written to Minister Bowen about Offshore Wind and we have included him in our submissions calling for a new national maritime training program – to ensure that there is a supply of skilled Australian seafarers ready to undertaken the work need to construct and operate the Hunter Offshore Wind Farms.
One of the existing proponents of a Hunter Offshore Wind farm is Oceanex Energy. Oceanex have prepared a detailed proposal which can be downloaded from their website - Oceanex Energy | Energising the new economy | Oceanex
The waters off the NSW coast are quite different from the waters of the Bass Strait off Gippsland Victoria which was the location for the first consultation in Australia over an Offshore Renewable Energy Zone. The continental shelf drops steeply off the NSW coast and the Offshore waters off NSW are too deep for the installation of Wind Turbine towers that are fixed to the seabed. This means that the Hunter Offshore Winds farms will be floating towers.
The vast majority of the Offshore Wind farms in the operation around the world today are fixed to the seabed in relatively shallow waters. Only a handful are floating Offshore Wind farms.
A variety of designs for floating Offshore Winds towers are being considered by the various proponents and developers. Whatever design eventually proves the most robust and cost effective it is almost certain that they will be largely constructed in the nearest suitable port and then towed onto location. Anchors will then be deployed to secure each tower into position.
The Oceanex proposal indicates that they will deploy over 130 towers- so that is quite a job in the initial deployment phase. Each tower will require multiple anchors to be laid so this will not just be a tow and drop operation. The towers will be connected to offshore substations and then a large cable will be laid for transmission of the electricity to the east coast grid ashore.
During the operation phase Oceanex’s indicative planning is the up to 8 vessels will be required and these will be based in Newcastle (see artists impression below - courtesy Oceanex). Some of these will be crew transfer vessels to take maintenance personnel out to the turbine towers. Others will be larger vessels with greater capability to carry out a range of tasks.