5. INDUSTRY ISSUES AND NEEDS
A marine industry strategy for Western Australia must be responsive to the national and international operating environment. This is particularly important to the high-speed light-weight shipbuilding sector.
ASIAN FINANCIAL CRISIS
While this strategy was being formulated the Asian currency crisis occurred. Estimates, particularly of predicted future growth in Asian economies, should be read in the light of rapidly changing economic conditions.
The Asian financial crisis began when the Thai Baht was floated in July 1997, sparking a steady decline in currencies across Asia. Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea have been forced to obtain multi-billion dollar bailouts led by the International Monetary Fund.
The government expect the Western Australian resources sector to feel the effects of the Asian currency crisis for at least another two years. However, devaluation will strengthen the Asian manufacturing sector which will ensure continuing demand for raw materials from Western Australia.
THE AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR
Most Asian currencies have severely devalued against the United States dollar, including the Australian dollar, which reached an eleven year low of 63.20 US cents (the lowest since October 1986).
The high-speed light-weight ferry industry could benefit from a low exchange rate, however purchases of imported materials and components such as aluminium, engines and jet propulsion units will cost relatively more.
The Department of Commerce and Trade must continue its dialogue with the marine industry and continue to monitor the Asian financial situation, so it can support the industry if necessary, to diversify into other global markets.
HIGH SPEED LIGHT WEIGHT SHIPBUILDING
The "Fast Ferry" industry, comprises a number of vessel types, including Hydrofoils, Catamarans, Monohulls, Surface Effect Ships and a number of other concept types such as trimarans and air-ride craft Catamarans and monohulls are most relevant to the current Western Australian industry.
Industry sources predict that:
・Much of the conventional car and passenger ferry market, and even large parts of the conventional passenger-only market, may be superseded by fast ferries during the next decade;
・An important factor in development of the market will be the pioneering of new shipping routes;