Such reforms could also provide opportunities to expand domestic shipping opportunities in Australia by opening new markets and competing more effectively with land transport. There is unlikely to be further erosion of coastal seaborne traffic by land transport since State Governments have moved out of direct participation in inter-state rail operations in favour of National Rail Corporation, which itself has a commercial charter.
Application of new high speed vessels technologies developed in Australia could give Australian shipowners market leadership in a new industry sector such as fast freight catamarans for perishable and "Just in Time" products.
Possible threats could include widespread industrial action by Australian maritime and related unions in protest against Government initiated reforms. This could reduce confidence in the marketplace and lead major owners and charterers to withdraw from Australian shipping. Moreover current industry participants may fail to support the reform process, leaving the industry without protection yet unable to improve cost efficiency.
Another possible threat is that the fiscal environment following the Federal Government's revision of its policies and practices may discourage Australian shipowners from new investment in ships.
STRATEGIES TO BE ADOPTED
The dominant requirement is for government to support existing industries to remain or become competitive in the national and international economy. Another need, in terms of social and community requirements, is to sustain and enhance high technology employment opportunities at a variety of levels including trade and professional callings.
These two aspects are not separable; industry needs a skilled workforce committed to a culture of innovation. In addition, younger workers involved in a responsibly innovative technological culture are the most likely source of new industrial developments.
Western Australian education and training for the marine industry is carried out by TAFE, by private providers including industry based sources, and within four universities, notably Curtin University and the University of Western Australia. These organisations must be encouraged to meet the industry's requirements for skilled trades personnel. Difficulties in training delivery in regional areas should be addressed to remove impediments to marine industry development in the regions of Western Australia.
An extensive assessment of marine industry research and development needs has been compiled based on the results of more than 60 industry visits.
Some representative research and development needs cited during the industry survey included: Benchmarking of production techniques in the high-speed light-weight ferry industry;
・Offshore structure inspection technology linked to remotely operated vehicles;
・Signature reduction from defence marine craft; and
・Tributyl tin (TBT) antifouling paint replacement.