Queensland Shuts Out Cargo Ships

Maritime Safety Queensland bans commercial ships from entering ports in Queensland if the ship or crew has been in any country outside of Australia within the last 14-days.


Shipping Australia Limited (SAL), which comprises all the major cargo shipping lines, has released a media statement expressing grave concern about the banning of commercial ships entering Queensland ports. Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) banned all commercial ships from docking in Queensland if the vessel, or any person onboard, has been in any country outside of Australia within the last 14-days.

MSQ cited the Prime Minister’s announcement that, from Sunday 15 March 2020, there would be a universal precautionary self-isolation requirement on all international travellers arriving in Australia. But SAL says this is not related to commercial cargo shipping and should not prohibit ships from entering port on arrival. Australian Government policy, as confirmed by the Australian Border Force (ABF) is that ships may enter port on arrival but the crew may not go on shore leave until 14 days have passed since the ship last called at an overseas port.

The MSQ Direction may hinder the ability of everyday Queenslanders to buy goods and it also hinders the ability of ships to take new crew onboard. Any 14-day ban could result in profound adverse consequences for the Australian public, especially those in regional communities. Depending on their individual circumstances, vessel owners may change their port rotations, they may drop off Queensland cargo to different ports or they may simply stop sending their ships to Queensland.

Key concerns have been raised by freight experts as to whether there would be enough truck drivers (assuming everyone is healthy) to fill the gap; what the potential freight cost increases would be and the likelihood of a potential lack of availability of seafreight in Queensland. One source estimated that trucking Queensland-bound freight from, say, Melbourne, would take three or four days “at least”. Goods shortages and price hikes in Queensland could be a consequence.

But it’s not only MSQ preventing cargo vessels from docking - other port authorities are considering similar measures.  Southern Ports has banned ships from the ports of Albany, Bunbury and Esperance until 14-days have elapsed from the last port of call and arriving in Australia; the Port Authority of NSW has also restricted the ability of ships that have last called at a selection of countries to dock in Australia.

Two weeks ago we reported on the costs incurred by vessel owners when ships are idle (see HERE).  Container lines simply cannot afford to pay for ships to uselessly wait around and not deliver freight for six to ten days while they wait for a 14-day period to elapse. Shipping lines may soon completely cease servicing those ports who impose unsustainable delays.

We will continue to issue regular updates on the effects on international trade and shipping as a result of COVID-19 as the situation unfolds. As licensed Customs Brokers and International Freight Forwarders, Colless Young offers you correct, professional advice on all your import and export shipping needs. We are based in Brisbane and handle cargo at all major ports and airports around Australia.