Australia’s Ship Industry to Get Tax Law Boost, Albanese Says

Australia’s government will introduce legislation to the lower house today to erase tax on domestic shipping companies in a bid to reverse a 40 percent decline in the nation’s fleet in the past decade.

The Stonger Shipping for a Stronger Economy legislation, a package of five bills, won’t preclude overseas companies from operating in the local industry, Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said in an e-mailed statement today.

“We have one of the most liberal coastal trading regimes in the world and this will not be changing,” Albanese said. “In the past decade, the Australian fleet has gone from 55 ships to 21, with only four operating on international routes.”

The fleet in Australia, which moves about 99.9 percent of trade by ships, has an average age of almost 20 years compared with a global average of 12 years, according to government figures. Mermaid Marine Australia Ltd., based in the Western Australian port of Fremantle and with a market value of about A$693 million ($724 million), gets 77 percent of its revenue from shipping, according to data compiled by Bloomberg for the most recent year.

With the Liberal-National opposition coalition opposing the laws, Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s ruling Labor minority government will need the support of independents to get the legislation through the lower house and the backing of the Greens in the upper house for it to become law.

The legislation “will exact a A$466 million hit on our economy over the next decade, see freight charges soar by up to 16 percent and kill off 570 full-time Australian jobs,” Opposition Transport spokesman Warren Truss said in a March 14 statement.

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