Maritime industry

Australian Maritime Sector

As the largest island continent on earth, the maritime sector is fundamental to Australia’s economy and society. The nation’s 70+ ports handle 98% of all trade by volume that flows in and out of its borders, with the combined value of Australia’s seagoing international imports and exports reaching above $600 billion over 2017 to 2019 . Australia has the third largest marine jurisdiction in the world after France and the USA, spanning 10.2 million square kilometres.

Australia is positioned within an important economic and strategic part of the Indo-Pacific. The region is a driver of the global economy, with the world’s busiest international sea lanes and nine of the ten largest ports in the world. The region is a resource rich area that includes multibillion-dollar oil and gas infrastructure, supplying the energy needs of Australia and its allies.

Australia’s maritime industry is a key enabler for a diverse range of industries including oil and gas, Defence and border protection, recreational and commercial fishing and cruise and superyacht service and supply.

According to a 2015 report commissioned by the Australian Shipowners Association, the maritime sector contributes over $20 billion to the Australian economy and employs over 42,000 people.

The maritime sector is also crucial to Australians’ way of life. The vast majority of Australia’s major cities are on or close to the coast, with more than 85% of the population living within 50 kilometres of the sea. It also plays an integral role for many of Australia’s first nations peoples economically, socially, culturally and spiritually.

Northern Australia

Darwin is the only capital city in Northern Australia and the natural hub for Australia’s international engagement in the Indo-Pacific region. The next closest major ports and marine service centres are located significant distances away in north Queensland, north Western Australia and Singapore.

The shipping and maritime sector makes an important economic contribution to the Northern Territory, providing services such as freight, commercial fishing, defence, border protection, cruise ships, charter vessels, recreational boating and workboats such as tugs and barges.

Darwin in particular is rapidly growing as a centre for marine services and supply supporting the operations of the Australian Defence Force and allied forces; Australian Border Force; offshore oil and gas industry; commercial fishing industry; tourism industry and general maritime industry.

Darwin is looking to position itself as a key vessel service, supply and sustainment hub in Northern Australia and the broader South East Asia region, servicing the needs of Defence, Border Force, the offshore oil and gas industry, fishing fleet, tug fleet, superyacht vessels and other commercial operators.

A number of larger maritime companies have a presence in the NT including Thales (as the prime contractor for the Armidale Class Patrol Boat (ACPB) sustainment contract), Austal, Paspaley and Norship. Additionally, there are a significant number of Small and Medium Enterprises currently engaged in service and supply.

Building critical mass is key for the service and supply industry. There are currently over 511 capable businesses in the Northern Territory marine services industry, with high level skills to service this market. Adding capacity depth and further capability will be important to growing the maritime sector in the NT.


The requirement for a clear and coordinated strategic blueprint for the Northern Territory maritime industry has gained traction due to the emergence of a number of projects and market opportunities that will drive future growth. These include the planned Marine Industry Park and Darwin Ship Lift, and growing demand for marine services from the oil and gas and defence industries.

In December 2020, the Northern Territory Government released the Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission (TERC) Final Report. The TERC report further identified the need for a clear strategy to support the holistic growth of the maritime industry.

The Maritime Industry Development Plan (the Plan) will provide a whole-of-government and industry framework for the development of the maritime sector which will:

  • Identify the NT’s comparative advantages and competitive position
  • Articulate a shared vision for the Territory’s maritime sector
  • Provide a framework for development of infrastructure, land, business capability and workforce
  • Articulate the ecosystems and other sectors that will contribute to or drive growth
  • Consider the impact on the sector of automation and advanced technology
  • Consider transportation aspects, including intermodal opportunities and dependencies
  • Set stretch targets and milestones
  • Provide options for funding and financing.

The Northern Territory Government welcomes comments, feedback and views of stakeholders on the future development and growth of the maritime industry, with particular reference to the following themes:

  • Key opportunities to grow the Territory’s maritime industry (locally, nationally and internationally)
  • The challenges currently impeding growth of your business and the industry as a whole
  • Potential for collaboration with other states and territories in relation to service and supply arrangements for key maritime users such as Defence, tourism operators and the super yacht industry
  • Strengths and limitations of current maritime infrastructure and the improvements needed to enhance productivity and efficiency
  • Current and future workforce requirements, and key skills shortages
  • Strengths and limitations of current Northern Territory legislation and regulatory barriers impacting the maritime sector.

Have your say

You can provide your input on the Maritime Industry Development Plan via the following:

  • Online survey: Go to the Have Your Say website. The survey closes at 5pm on Friday 5 November 2021.
  • Lodge a submission: If you would like to lodge a written submission on the Maritime Industry Development Plan, email your document to

A discussion paper has been developed to inform the plan.

Maritime Industry Development Plan discussion paper PDF (4.5 MB)
Maritime Industry Development Plan discussion paper DOCX (6.7 MB)

The Marine Industry Park (MIP) is currently being developed by the Land Development Corporation at East Arm with connections to road, rail and sea transport and other supporting infrastructure.

Located 16km by road from Darwin CBD and directly adjoining East Arm Wharf and the Marine Supply Base, the MIP offers opportunities to enhance support for the marine and offshore industries complementing services already available within the region.

Centrally positioned on Australia’s northern coastline within Darwin’s deep water harbour, the MIP will be the only significant vessel servicing point between Cairns and Perth. The MIP has the potential to deliver over 100 hectares of waterfront industrial land to support marine maintenance, servicing, engineering, fabrication and logistics activities.

Adjacent to major onshore gas developments and offshore supply bases, the MIP provides the opportunity to capitalise on Darwin’s expanding gas, marine services and Defence industries. Existing marine facilities located within MIP include an all tide barge ramp and 9 hectares of secured hardstand with 24 hour access for storage and fabrication activities. This provides an accredited First Point of Entry for the Port of Darwin.

The largest Ship Lift in Northern Australia is currently being designed and will be built within the Marine Industry Park. The Darwin Ship Lift facility will have capacity to maintain and service Defence and Australian Border Force vessels, along with commercial and private vessels, including those from the oil, gas and marine industries.

The Darwin Ship Lift facility is designed to meet the needs of the general maritime sector and the current and long-term needs of the Department of Defence and the Australian Border Force, while supporting local jobs and economic growth in the Territory. Once operational, it is expected the facility will fast track the further development of the marine maintenance and servicing industry and produce many new jobs.

The Darwin Ship Lift facility will include:

  • a ship lift 26m wide and 103m long and 6m deep
  • lifting capability of 5,000 tonnes
  • transfer system using Self Propelled Modular Transporters (SPMTs)
  • wet berths (wharves)
  • additional hard stand area for ship repair and maintenance works.

Port infrastructure plays an important role in the Northern Territory economy. The Territory’s five ports facilitate a vast majority of the Territory’s international exports and are key to the importation of essential inputs to support industry sectors and the supply of consumer goods. Ports are also an essential enabler for the cruise ship industry.

There are currently five operating ports located across the Territory:

  • Darwin Port (Darwin)
  • Gove Port (Nhulunbuy)
  • Alyangula Port (Groote Eylandt)
  • Port Melville (Tiwi Islands)
  • Bing Bong Loading/Export Facility.

Last updated: 16 September 2021

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