BIG MOVERS: Ships of more than 50m require port pilots to guide them through the harbour.
BIG MOVERS: Ships of more than 50m require port pilots to guide them through the harbour. CHRISSY HARRIS

Privatisation fears as port pilotage services change hands

PORT pilotage services in Gladstone are set to change hands, after the State Government announced responsibility for the services would be given back to government-owned ports corporations.

Union representatives are concerned the move could pre-empt slated privatisation of the port.

Pilotage services are currently provided by Maritime Safety Queensland's Brisbane-based office - but Transport Minister Scott Emerson claims the changes, to take effect in November, will increase efficiency and safety.

When quizzed on whether there was need for concern for Maritime Safety Queensland staff, a Transport and Main Roads spokesman said there would be no job losses as a result of the changes.

"We are committed to improving efficiencies within our ports and there will be no job losses as a result of changes; the same pilots will be doing the same work in the same ports," the spokesman said.

But Maritime Union Australia Queensland Organiser Jason Miners was sceptical about the changes, hinting there could be a move towards long-term privatisation of Gladstone Port behind the transfer of control.

"Our (MUA) biggest concern is privatisation of the port, and this may be one of the initial steps towards privatisation," Mr Miners said.

"If that were to happen, then it's inevitable that jobs would be cut; it's happened at every other privatised port in the country."

The Department of Transport and Main Roads said there would be no initial changes to the staff set-ups.

"Pilots will remain as employees, but under a different government entity," the Department spokesman said.

"We are actively recruiting pilots to meet demand."

Mr Miners was critical of the job MSQ had done in Gladstone.

He said the service had not been helped by budget cuts, but claimed it was running what he considered a "cowboy operation'' in the port.

Gladstone Ports Corporation chief Leo Zussino said the port looked forward to working with marine pilots to ensure an efficient shipping channel in Gladstone, which he said was crucial as the region expanded.

Changes to port pilotage services:

  • Responsibility will change over in November
  • Maritime Safety Queensland will hand control over to individual ports corporations across the State
  • MSQ will retain responsibility of Brisbane, Southport and Abbot Pt