Queensland has been at the forefront of the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said Maritime Safety Queensland's (MSQ) decision this week to exclude all foreign ships from pilotage areas at Queensland ports until 14 days has elapsed since leaving their last international port is consistent with the same rules it has applied to Chinese ships since 31 January and South Korean ships since 5 March.
"They have been adopted across the nation because they are the most effective for dealing with the threat to our port supply chains from COVID-19," Mr Bailey said.
"These are decisions made by maritime and health experts to protect our communities during this international pandemic.
"Given the health threat our nation is facing, this is a tough but necessary policy and meets the community’s expectations to tighten border control to contain COVID-19 to minimise the threat to our sea based trade from this virus.
"It reduces the potential for international seafarers who may be sick or carrying the virus to come into contact with local maritime workers while they may be contagious.
"Losing highly skilled marine pilots to infection, particularly at regional ports could have a catastrophic effect on trade at those ports over many months. The Australian economy can’t afford that.
"Any vessel over 50 metres in length cannot enter a port without a licenced pilot. There are a limited number of specialised licenced pilots for each of Queensland’s 21 ports.
"Those pilots train for months, learning to navigate and guide large ships in their respective ports, before they actually go out and do the job on the water.
"Travel constraints and labour force impacts caused by COVID-19 will restrict our ability to produce new pilots within a short time.
"MSQ has been working collaboratively with major exporters and they are aware of the gravity of this situation and understand why this course of action is needed.
"MSQ has promptly processed a number of exemptions to the measures where special circumstances can be demonstrated. Notably, where there is a need to maintain critical supply lines, for countries including New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific islands, and where risk is sufficiently managed, in line with Federal Health directives.
"There has been a reduction in containers arriving at Queensland ports due to production shut downs in China but our bulk exports have been largely unaffected.
"Cargo continues to move efficiently through Queensland ports.
"Almost 2200 ships entered Queensland ports between 31 January, when MSQ first enacted restrictions from China then South Korea, and 18 March.
"To date, no cases of COVID-19 have been identified at our Queensland ports or affecting port workforces."
Minister for Transport and Main Roads
The Honourable Mark Bailey