EDITORIAL | Some encouraging news

EDITORIAL | Some encouraging news

The last couple of months have seen some good and encouraging news coming through for the maritime industry. The news has been technical, political and economic.

More powerful diesel and electric outboard motors

Reports from the United States and Germany inform us that some usefully powerful electric and diesel outboard motors have been released by a couple of established manufacturers.

The Mercury division of the giant Brunswick Corporation has released a “Special Forces spec” 131kW diesel outboard and Germany’s Torqeedo an electric outboard motor of 60kW.

While apparently not yet generally available to retail customers, the fact is that they have been released and publicly presented. This is particularly encouraging. Hopefully, a positive industry response will encourage Mercury, Torqeedo and some of their competitors to make them generally available.

Readers will have undoubtedly noticed the ever-larger boats reviewed here that are fitted with outboard motors. It is not now uncommon to see outboard powered commercial boats of up to 14 metres in length. Until now all those motors have been petrol fuelled but, apparently, not for much longer.

There is not much wrong with modern petrol outboards in terms of safety and, even, fuel economy. Obviously, though, for “Milspec” boats, petrol tanks are a bit of a threat. For the same reason and one of perceived economy, there are, I suspect, many commercial vessel owners who would be happier to install diesel outboards.

Although I still think of electric powered cars and boats as “coal burners” in reality because of their reliance on mains electricity for re-charging their batteries, I am well aware that this situation will change in future.

Meanwhile, most electricity on this planet is generated in coal-fired power stations, but there are many applications where electric outboard motors would be welcome. Rivers, lakes and coastal waters where re-charging facilities are readily available are obvious starting points.

Probably the biggest disadvantage with both developments will be their initial high capital cost.

While I have not been able to find a price for the Mercury motors, I am aware that the Torqeedo 60kW model, along with its batteries and charging equipment, can be comparatively expensive.

Nevertheless, both are very important and encouraging developments that, I trust, will soon make it into the mainstream of commercial marine power. Mercury and Torqeedo deserve support for their enterprise

Green threat to diesel fuel rebates

The Green party is currently braying about removing the diesel fuel rebate that effectively removes the road tax component of the price off-road users pay for diesel fuel.

Tragically, the Greens could well enjoy the balance of power in the next Australian Parliament which could facilitate the carrying out of their threat.

Apart from being incredibly unfair and illogical, such a move would add significantly to the costs of commercial mariners, farmers and miners. Beware and be prepared to speak out loud and long.

The times, they are a changin’

With thanks and apologies to Bob Dylan, I am delighted to have seen a number of important changes affecting us all on the politico/industrial front. For a welcome change, the only victims will be Paddy Crumlin and his merry men in the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).

While I have some sympathy for the rank and file members of the union who have been led by the nose by their officials, I have none for the union itself. It has for generations been a malevolent and destructive force that has done great damage to the Australian economy and practically obliterated the local shipping industry on which its members relied for their employment.

Well, now that we are down to a handful of Australian flag cargo ships and the offshore oil and gas industry is in the doldrums, to put it mildly, the MUA’s chickens have come home to roost. Its self-destructive activities have done little to benefit its members or their prospects. There’s not much of an industry left for them to rape and pillage.

It seems for the industry, though, that it is darkest just before the dawn. Maritime employers are starting to fight the union cleverly. First, we saw two of our aluminium manufacturers spirit their ships out of the country from under the noses of the MUA. Then we saw the brave and clever Rivtow people, supported by their client, BHP, free two important iron and coal ports from the MUA’s clutches over their tugs. They proved that it’s not only Chris Corrigan who can successfully confront the MUA heavies.

Corrigan, indeed, appears to be returning to the waterfront with his company Qube purchasing substantial parts of the Asciano stevedoring group. Asciano was rapidly mechanising its activities anyway. Now this looks likely to happen much faster.

We are likely to see similar fortitude appearing in the offshore O&G sector with much for the MUA to fear there too. The sector has plenty of non-MUA options for its future activities. Even the much-hyped Southern Shipping Australia coastal container line is unlikely to proceed unless it can do so free of the dead hand of the MUA.

The MUA has much to fear. No wonder that rumours abound as to its intentions to merge with the possibly even more malignant CFMEU.

Neil Baird


Neil Baird

Co-founder and former Editor-in-Chief of Baird Maritime and Work Boat World magazine, Neil has travelled the length and breadth of this planet in over 40 years in the business. He knows the global work boat industry better than anyone.