3 wharfies escape death on ship of shame

Just one day after burying a workmate in Sydney, and a week after another was hospitalised in Melbourne with life threatening injuries, another three waterside workers have narrowly escaped death in Port Kembla.

The three waterside workers were on board the Panamanian flag of convenience vessel Cos Knight at the Blue Scope Steel, Patrick Stevedores wharves loading slabs of steel for Korea, when the wire on the ship's crane snapped.  A 28 tonne slab of steel, the block off the crane and the crane's wire came crashing down almost on top of where they were standing just two feet away.

"Our guys had just lowered a load in the hold of the ship and were moving the second slab when bang the wire snapped and it fell from around 2 metres above where they'd been standing," said MUA branch secretary Gary Keane.  "They'd just taken a step back. As the steel load came down they dived out of the way.  The steel wire itself could have sliced them in half.  One bloke dived into a hole between two loads of steel, they others jumped onto another load.

"We are just lucky we don't have another three dead comrades," he said.

Had the workers been overseeing another lift from the wharf, the wire could have snapped with the load 25 metres up and there would have been little chance of anyone escaping alive.

"This is just another case of ships of shame, floating factories, coming into our harbours and putting life and limb at risk," said MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin.  "We very nearly had three dead the day after burying our Port Botany comrade.

"It just another wake up call that we need a national safety code on our wharves, including full ship inspections before job start.  And we need shipping reform to move forward so we don't have so many ships of shame on our coast, destroying our environment and threatening workers lives."