Media Release 16th March 2016 BP Withdraws the Last Tanker Australia has lost its last domestically operated petroleum tanker ship.
It was announced yesterday 15th March that the BP owned ship “British Fidelity”, which had been sent to Singapore for allegedly urgent repairs, will not be returning to Australia.
Up until recently, British Fidelity had supplied petroleum products produced at the BP Kwinana Refinery to eastern ports including Tasmania. The British Fidelity held a Transitional General Licence issued in 2012 under the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act 2012.
The ship was operated by an Australian crew employed by an Australian company, ASP Ship Management.
The British Fidelity was the last tanker ship operated by Australian personnel carrying petroleum cargoes between Australian ports. With its departure Australia now has no tanker capability in its merchant navy. Australia is now totally reliant on tankers operated by foreign companies with foreign crews.
And with the loss of this last tanker, Australia also loses the one remaining tanker ship which could provide domestic training opportunities for young Australians wanting to work on tanker ships.
In early 2012 there were 5 tankers with Australian licences engaged in coastal trading [between Australian ports]:
When the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act 2012 came into force those 5 tankers were granted Transitional General Licences – because they were all foreign flag ships and not entitled to hold an Australian General licence. In 2014-15 these 5 Transitional General Licence tanker ships carried almost 3 million tonnes of petroleum cargoes on the Australian coast:
But in recent months all five of these tankers have been withdrawn from service:
Alexander Spirit Caltex notified in July 2015 that the ship would be re-crewed i.e. foreign crew;
British Fidelity BP gave notice in March 2016 of the withdrawal of the ship.
Each of the three companies mentioned – Viva, Caltex and BP – made submissions to the 2014 Senate Committee Inquiry in to Fuel Security to the effect that Australia has no fuel security problem. They have subsequently removed the last remaining Australian operated tanker shipping capacity thus leaving Australia without a single tanker ship in our merchant navy.
So how is petroleum now being moved around the Australian coast?
The answer is simple – it is being moved by foreign flag ships with foreign crews utilising “Temporary” Licences. There is a 12 month time limit on these “Temporary” Licences but there is no limit on the number of times a ship can be granted repeat “Temporary” Licences. Some ships which were operating under the old legislation using repeat “Single Voyage Permits” have simply adapted to the “Temporary” Licence system and operated continuously for the whole period since the 2012 enactment.
From 1 July 2012 to 7 March 2016 13,930,136 tonnes of petroleum were carried around the Australian coast by foreign ships with foreign crews using a total of 963 “Temporary” Licences granted by the Federal Government (Department of Infrastructure – Shipping Business Unit). In the latest calendar year – 2015 – the amount of petroleum cargoes moved on “Temporary” Licences [foreign flag & foreign crew] was 4,261,988 tonnes. This is 50% more than the cargo carried by the Australian operated ships in 2014-15.
The oil industry has decided to operate its distribution network around the Australian coast using the “Temporary” Licence system – which is really another form of guest labour for the Australian economy.