Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates from the Australian Government


As an island nation, Australia is dependent on shipping for both international trade and domestic freight movements (coastal trading). As such, our major ports and related infrastructure provide the key locations for supply chain activities servicing both bulk and container facilities.

The private sector is the major player in port operations and investment, with the regulatory framework set by government. State and territory governments have responsibility for land use planning and controls, including for ports, their adjacent land areas and connecting transport systems. Local government also makes decisions that affect ports, including on matters such as planning requirements and local road access. State or territory governments have historically owned port authorities; however there is a trend toward privatising these assets on a long-term lease basis.

Commonwealth responsibilities relating to ports include: environmental assessment of port developments where matters of national environmental significance are concerned, safety and security matters, customs, and implementing Australia's international maritime obligations as they relate to ports.

Maritime and shipping

The Department's Maritime and Shipping Branch assists the Australian Government to contribute to the prosperity of the economy and the wellbeing of all Australians by supporting and enhancing our maritime industry.

With respect to maritime business, the Branch consults with industry on a range of policy measures including amendments to liability and insurance standards for the maritime industry, and tax incentive operations for certain Australian operations. The Branch is also responsible for the regulation of coastal trading in Australia.

The Branch oversees a range of legislation, giving effect to Australia's maritime safety and marine environmental protection obligations under various international treaties and conventions. It oversees the development of Australian policy positions in the International Maritime Organization.

In addition, the Branch is responsible for the administration of the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme and the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme.

The Maritime and Shipping Branch's work primarily concerns the regulation of shipping accessing Australia's ports and waters. The Branch is not responsible for the regulation of port precincts themselves.

Maritime security

The Australian Government has implemented a regulatory framework to ensure maritime and port activities have appropriate security measures in place.

Freight network

Governments collaborate on a range of initiatives to improve the outcomes of the national freight system. These centre on the themes of integrated planning, better data and performance, community engagement and complementary measures.