Hostilities on the Australian coast have intensified this week, with the introduction of a bill to Parliament on 25 June.
The new bill is introduced to deregulate coastal shipping, to call on a senate inquiry into Flag of Convenience (FoC) shipping, and to hold an inquest of three seafarers’ deaths on board a coal ship trading with Australia.
Shipping Australia, representing foreign shipping interests in Australia, is pitted against the unions fighting to keep Australian ships and jobs on the coast. Maritime Industry Australia representing Australian-flagged shipping also opposed the bill.
This week the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) said Shipping Australia had overstepped the mark and demanded an immediate retraction from the company, after its CEO Rod Nairn questioned the senate inquiry into FoC shipping and a coroner’s inquest into two of the three deaths on board the Sage Sagittarius coal carrier as unrelated to the cabotage debate.
“For us the safety of seafarers is paramount,” ITF secretary Steve Cotton told IHS Maritime. “That’s why we pushed for this inquest. We would expect responsible shipowners not just to understand that but also to share our concerns,” he added, saying Nairn’s attitude damaged the relationship between the ITF and international shipowners.
“The ITF will not stop fighting to protect seafarers everywhere,” Cotton said. “The ITF will continue to back cabotage as a way of upholding standards and employment at sea.”
Nairn declined to comment on the ITF media release.
“SAL (Shipping Australia) members, whose ships sail under many flags, are committed to promoting seafarers’ welfare and compliance with the MLC [Maritime Labour Convention],” he told IHS Maritime.
“Our independent ships agents provide additional support to seafarers from ships of all flags visiting Australia. SAL is an active member of the Australian Seafarers’ Welfare Council.”
Meanwhile, the Maritime Union of Australia national secretary Paddy Crumlin said the union would be urging senators to block the passage of the bill to end cabotage.
“It takes a special kind of government to spend nearly two years in power and then pick the International Day of the Seafarer to try to obliterate an entire industry in a proud shipping nation,” he said in a statement.
Three men lost their lives on Sage Sagittarius in 2012, two in Australian waters within six weeks. Chief cook Cesar Llanto disappeared overboard off the coast of Queensland in the Coral Sea on the morning of 12 September 2012. Australian Federal police investigated the vessel in Port Kembla before it continued its journey to Newcastle to load coal. Chief engineer Hector Collado was found dead before it berthed. The third person, Hachiuma Steamship safety supervisor Kosaku Monji, was crushed to death in the ship’s conveyor belt after the ship docked in the port of Kudamatsu, Japan. Monji was part of a crisis management team conducting an internal investigation into the first two deaths that occurred on board.