Union’s security concerns over refinery closures

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) is concerned about diminished fuel security caused by closure of all the petroleum refineries in NSW and the ACT.

“From September 2014, all fuel supplies for transport, aviation, industry and mining in NSW and the ACT will depend on international-flag tankers importing fuel to only three ports [Sydney, Port Botany and Newcastle],” a submission from MUA Secretary Paddy Crumlin to the Department of Industry notes.

“One mid-size marine fuel tanker carries the equivalent of 1,000 truck tankers so replacement supplies cannot be transported from other states in the event of a disruption to these ports or ships.”

The MUA submission also notes that the precarious nature of Australia’s liquid fuel supply is worsened by the 46 per cent decline in Australian fuel reserves that the IEA has recorded since 2009. Australia has not met the IEA’s 90-day minimum of stocks on hand since then. In 2009, Australia held 98 days of net imports, according to the IEA’s method of calculation – far lower than the reserves held by each of the US, UK, Germany and Japan.

The MUA is also concerned about the future of Australian-crewed tankers for keeping Australia’s critical liquid fuel stocks in order, and more so by the fact that the contract for the tanker Tanadara Spirit to supply energy company Vitol is not being renewed.

The union claims most domestic shipping is carried out by five Australian-crewed tankers on long-term charter to BP, Caltex and Vitol/Viva (previously Shell). These ships are the Alexander Spirit and Hugli Spirit (Caltex), the British Loyalty and British Fidelity, and the Tandara Spirit (Shell/Vitol).

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