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Western Australia (WA) criticised for “precautionary measures”

Shipping Australia Limited (SAL) called out WA on overlooking the country’s trade significance

Premier Mark McGowan’s threat to turn away Indonesian vessels with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases onboard caused jitters across the nation. Even on the diplomatic level, the country has much to fear in terms of trade.

Good intentions overlooking pressing issues
Premier McGowan’s firm decision late July was in essence a direct threat to parties who fail to consider the implications of having infected vessels call on Australia. “We will turn away ships if we can. That sends a message to the shipping companies: You will lose money if you do not deal with this situation,” he stressed.

As much as Premier McGowan’s intention was obvious, what he blatantly overlooked deliberately or otherwise was the intangible damage WA will suffer on a diplomatic level. On the flip side, the Australian Livestock Export Council (ALEC) urged the WA government to reconsider any plans to turn back cargo vessels travelling from Indonesia as the South-east nation grapples with a spike in COVID-19 infections.

Mark Harvey-Sutton, ALEC’s Chief Executive said state and federal authorities had an economic and moral responsibility not to disrupt trade. “I understand the Premier has made comments about potentially banning vessels from Indonesia. That would be a very concerning outcome if that was to occur — not only for Australian agricultural commodities, but also for our friends in Indonesia. This is a time of need in their country, deeply affected by COVID-19 at the moment, and Australia plays a role in fulfilling their food security needs,” he noted.

SAL speaks out
Melwyn Noronha, SAL’s CEO called out WA’s actions as “dangerous”. The association listed three objections. The first was exposing seafarers onboard the vessel to serious health risks, and how turning away the sick crew may subject the vessel to maritime mishaps. Lastly, the economic importance of shipping to Australia with 99.92 per cent by volume of all the country’s trade carried by sea.

Noronha appealed, “Shipping Australia calls upon the WA government to recognise the vital importance of shipping by adopting a pragmatic risk management approach with the aim of facilitating trade. We also call upon the WA government to ensure that sick seafarers have access to appropriate medical care.”


Marine Online News Team
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