Portland's commercial harbour master could become a public sector employee under a proposal to reform Victoria's ports which is being met with fierce opposition.
A discussion paper accompanying a state government review into ports says "tensions" can arise for harbour masters between safety obligations and a "narrower commercial imperative" for "cost efficient port operations".
The report flags that a state-owned entity "with a clear safety charter" should employ harbour masters, rather than a private entity such as the Port of Portland.
But South West Coast MP and opposition ports spokeswoman Roma Britnell opposed the change and questioned why the state government needed to interfere with private business.
"There's nothing broken, for the government to put a layer of bureaucracy in and remove a business' right to do business is really slanting towards a very controlling state which has all sorts of ramifications," Ms Britnell said.
"We have not had incidents."
Port of Portland chief executive Greg Tremewen, while yet to form a position, said the port had just appointed a new harbour master due to commence mid-August.
"He is concerned about it and we will assist in drafting our response to the discussion paper," Mr Tremewen said.
"Our harbour master is also our marine manager, and the position in Portland has 19 people report to it ... this is of vital importance to us.
"I'm interested to see why such a review is necessary. We anticipate having discussions with the author ... before finalising our reply."
He said the port also saw about one million tonnes less freight than it forecast for 2019-20, mostly due to a decline in forestry products, with a majority of that decline linked to the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Glenelg Shire councillor Geoff White, who chairs a committee for the nearby council-managed Portland Bay Port, said the council was "totally opposed" to another recommendation for all ports to be managed by a central bureaucracy.
"We would have three different entities in the port rather than two. The two have worked so well over the years," Cr White said.
The port is about to receive upgrades worth $4.2 million and Cr White said it was "soundly based financially".
"It's been acknowledged we are one of the best managed ports along the coast line," he said.
Information about the review, the discussion paper and how to make a written submission can be found online at https://getinvolved.transport.vic.gov.au and feedback is open until 14 August.
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