Crew Members Forcibly Removed from MV Portland in Disgraceful Act by Alcoa

Five crewmembers aboard Alcoa ship the MV Portland were woken at 1am this morning by up to 30 security guards, handed their passports and forcibly removed from the vessel.

The MV Portland is en route to Singapore, being sailed by a foreign crew, following a 60-day dispute with Alcoa, triggered when the American–based miner sacked the 40 Australian workers.

The company is trying to circumvent Australia’s cabotage laws and shift to foreign vessels, many of them Flags of Convenience (FOC’s) using exploited workers on as little as $2-an-hr. 

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said there were many unanswered questions about the legitimacy of Alcoa’s heavy-handed approach in forcibly removing workers in the middle of the night.

“Questions need to be asked about the role of Alcoa and the Australian Government in this,” Mr Crumlin said.

“How did the foreign crew gain permission to enter and then sail the vessel? Where are the crew from? What security checks do they have? What visa are they on?

“Has Australia learnt nothing  since the infamous waterfront dispute in 1998? When did it suddenly become ok to again send in security guards in the dead of night to forcibly remove a workforce? This sort of thing shouldn’t happen to anyone in their workplace."

Alcoa has been allowed to utilise a foreign vessel, with a foreign crew after the Turnbull Government granted the company a temporary licence on the exclusively domestic route, which moves cargo between Western Australia and the smelter in Portland. 

The MV Portland has plied that route for 27 years. Temporary licences are intended for for predominantly foreign trading ships that call into more than one Australian port for a temporary period.

“Australia currently has cabotage laws which state that ships trading through domestic ports are to be Australian flagged and crewed,” Mr Crumlin said.

“The Australian Senate has blocked the Turnbull Government’s deregulation agenda with the Government’s own figures saying this would result in more than 1,000 direct job losses. 

“The Turnbull Government should never have issued this temporary licence to Alcoa and they should cancel it immediately.

“Australians have a right to work jobs in their own country and to be treated with respect by an employer profiting off the minerals that belong to the Australian people."