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Weekly COVID-19 Update: Everything vessels, vehicles and gear

During these unprecedented times, we’re giving you weekly updates on how COVID-19 is impacting everything to do with vessels, vehicles, and gear.

In this week’s edition we outline:

  • The latest border closures information from MIAL
  • The Victorian Government’s changes to the Road Safety Act
  • Visa changes to allow foreign workers to support Australian agriculture
  • The NHVR’s new interactive map of service centres for truck drivers
  • The CCF’s push to inject cash into the civil construction industry
  • The latest update from NTI’s participation in industry advocacy groups

Marine and Cargo

  • Maritime Industry Australia Limited (MIAL) has released a document outlining the latest border closures information for maritime vessels.  This includes national information from the Australian Border Force (ABF) as well as state-level entry arrangements.  You can download a copy here.
  • On Thursday, the first flight under the Federal Government’s International Freight Assistance Mechanism departed, taking exports or premium Australian seafood into Asia.  The aircraft used the transport the seafood will then bring back medical supplies and equipment on its return journey.  This initiative is important as 80% of Australia’s air freight is normally carried in the cargo hold of commercial passenger flights.  Find out more.
  • Bloomberg Business released an article summarising the impact that restrictions on commercial shipping crews is having on cargo movements.  According to the International Chamber of Shipping, about 100,000 seafarers each month need to be changed over from ships to comply with maritime rules that regulate safe working hours and crew welfare.  Restrictions on crews entering ports for changeovers means there could be fewer available ships and higher freights costs.  The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development is advocating that countries and ports should consider exemptions for seafarers similar to those granted to airline and health workers, as essential medicines and equipment are already being held up in ports in Europe.  Read more here.
  • The National Cabinet has agreed to visa arrangements to support the agricultural workforce needed to secure Australian food supplies.  More than one-third of peak seasonal jobs on horticultural farms in Australia are filled by overseas workers.  The Federal Government is currently working on changes to the Seasonal Workers Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme to allow approved employers to sponsor workers for visas, as well as putting protocols in place to manage COVID-19 risks in farming workplaces.
  • The Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA) is asking the Federal Government to defer taxes and customs duties for a least six months to help with cash flow.  They state that supply chain disruptions are making it difficult for many companies to raise enough cash to pay customs duties and taxes on time, which jeopardises the timely release of essential goods from ports.  Read more here.

Transport

  • NTI representatives again participated in a range of transport industry roundtables to advocate on behalf of those in the transport, logistics and cargo industries.  This week, the Australian Government’s Land Transport Industry Meeting was chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister to take any issues directly to the Prime Minister.  Issues discussed included the build-up of containers at ports, the restart of the Chinese economy and what this could mean for Australian exports, as well as whether current tax concessions are adequate for transport businesses. 
  • The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) also advocated for the instant asset write-off threshold to be increased to $450K as this is a more realistic figure for purchasing a new prime mover or specialised truck.  They are also asking for this increased threshold to extend to December 2020 to allow for manufacturers to respond to customer demand – especially overseas manufacturers.
  • The Victorian Government has announced changes to the Road Safety Act, and concessions from local councils, to safeguard the movement of goods throughout the state.  This means that any driver engaged in the delivery of food or personal hygiene products to retail outlets are now permitted to use roads that display a ‘no trucks’ sign at any time of the day, and that any driver that has stopped in a loading zone to collect or deliver goods from a retail outlet may remain there for as long as it takes to complete the delivery or drop off.  The changes are in place until 21st September, 2020.
  • Due to the impact on road traffic volumes this Easter from COVID-19, several authorities relaxed restrictions that normally apply to the movement of agricultural, oversize/overmass (OSOM) and special purpose vehicles during the Easter period.  Our partners at The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) created a list of the relaxations and encouraged all transport operators to check it regularly for updates over the long weekend.
  • Late last week, Pacific National, one of Australia’s largest rail freight businesses, came under fire for announcing a ban on truck drivers accessing amenities at its sites across the country.  Thankfully, the decision was reversed within hours after industry groups, such as the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), called them out as part of its Keep Them Open campaign.
  • The NHVR has created an interactive map showing rest stops and service centres that are open for truck drivers during the pandemic.  Check it out here.

Construction

  • HiPages have launched a campaign, including a full page ad in The Australian, highlighting the Federal Government’s decision to maintain tradies as essential services.  The government’s decision acknowledged Australia’s need for local tradies for emergency repairs, maintenance, and to finish work on critical projects around homes.
  • The Civil Contractors Federation (CCF) is calling on federal, state and local public procurement agencies to pay all outstanding claims to their suppliers as a form of injecting cash into the civil construction supply chain. There are more than 1.1 million workers in the civil construction industry, which works to construct and maintain infrastructure such as internet, water and electricity.  The CCF is advocating for outstanding claims to be paid as the larger Australian civil construction companies, who employ the majority of the workforce, are sitting above the financial threshold measures announced in the government stimulus packages; this means they cannot access government support to retain workers.  Read more.