Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Maritime Unions Object to What They Consider a Weakening of Domestic Shipping Support

Change in Law Allows for Logical Domain Name Registration
Shipping News Feature

AUSTRALIA – The country's maritime unions, which have been smarting ever since the previously publicly owned shipping company Australian National Line (ANL) was sold to the French container and logistics giant CMA CGM, has again lambasted the national government over its latest actions regarding formerly domestically owned companies.

The passing of the ANL Legislation Repeal Bill through the Senate now means there is no legal protection for business names formerly used by the Commonwealth shipping company, including: ANL, Australian National Line, Maritime Agencies of Australia and Searoad.

The Maritime Union of Australia said the Federal Government had found time to debate legislation with the sole aim of allowing a foreign shipping company to use names that deceptively suggested they were based in Australia, but was missing in action when it came to protecting what remains of Australia’s domestic fleet. Union National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said the Government should be focusing its energies on supporting Australia’s economic and national security by investing in the strengthening of the domestic shipping industry, continuing:

“The Morrison Government has found the time to draw up legislation to allow the foreign owner of the former Commonwealth shipping line to use business names and domain names that deceptively suggest an ongoing link to Australian shipping, yet they’ve been unwilling to do anything to actually support the local industry or seafarers.

“ANL isn’t based in Australia, it no longer employs Australian seafarers, yet the Federal Government is passing legislation that is solely aimed at assisting this foreign business by removing restrictions on its use of deceptive business names likes Australian National Line and Maritime Agencies of Australia.

“It is embarrassing enough that the Australian National Line is no longer Australian, but it is truly insulting that the Morrison Government is putting more legislative effort into assisting this foreign company than they do to assist what remains of our domestic shipping industry.”

“The number of Australian-owned and crewed vessels is continuing to shrink, with thousands of jobs lost in recent decades. Not only has this had substantial economic and social impacts, it has left our island nation extremely vulnerable to any global conflicts or economic shocks that may disrupt maritime trade.

“Rather than support Australian shipping, the Morrison Government has continued to issue licenses to foreign flag of convenience vessels to operate in our waters, supply our fuel, carry our resources, and move cargo around the coast. These vessels, which our nation is now almost entirely dependent on, are often registered in tax havens and crewed by exploited visa workers on as little as A$2 per hour.

“There is a genuine crisis in Australian shipping, and it has potentially serious implications for all Australians, yet rather than take action, the Morrison Government is wasting their time with this insignificant and irrelevant legislation.”

The ANL Legislation Repeal Bill, which passed into law following the debate on October 11, sets out the reason for the change thus. In early 1991, the Government declared an intention to privatise ANL in light of its deteriorating financial performance and the company’s failure to meet targets set out in its 1989/92 corporate plan. ANL was progressively restructured from 1995 and legislation was introduced to facilitate its sale.

The company was effectively split up by the government and the liner agency business sold to CMA CGM. The last part belonging to the government was the Australian River Co. Limited, created in 1997 and wound up in 2015. Crucially the sale to CMA CGM specifically included the intellectual property associated with the business and the passing of the Act allows the French group to now use the hitherto ‘protected names’ in a modern commercial context, such as through the registration of domain names.

It is this issue of domain names which has doubtless caused the change in the law. The car and passenger ferry service company Searoad Ferries found the administrator and regulatory body for the ‘.au’ domain space, auDA, lists the above protected names as ‘words and phrases that are restricted under Commonwealth legislation’ on its Reserved List Policy, meaning that these names cannot be used in websites in the ‘.au’ domain. Searoad Ferries currently holds the domain name ‘searoad.com.au’.

Only by repealing the ANL Act, now considered redundant by the government, would Searoad, or any of the protected names, be able to register an .au domain without government intervention.