Acting National Assistant Secretary Garry Keane reports that the CSL Thevenard sailed from the port of Ho-Ping in Taiwan for Melbourne on the morning of Wednesday 18th January.
There have been numerous postings on Facebook airing members concerns that the vessel was sailing to Taiwan so the crew could be replaced with a foreign crew; some of the more alarmist postings declaring the vessel was gone off our coast forever.
Given the recent history of CSL Australia relinquishing their Australian Transitional General Licences and replacing Australian crews it is fair to say that when CSL Australia notified the union on 22nd December 2016 of the intent to sail the vessel to Ho-Ping in Taiwan to accommodate a customer’s request at short notice to pick up a cargo of cement clinker to be delivered to Melbourne the officials that deal with CSL and the crew of the Thevenard had similar concerns.
(Photo: MUA crew of the CSL Thevenard with ITF Inspector Sarah Maguire at berth in Ho-Ping Taiwan)
Across the Christmas period and prior to the vessel sailing the union sought written assurances that the vessel would be returning to Australia with the same crew and under the same licencing conditions that it was sailing off the coast with.
CSL Australia CO Bill Bisset and CSL Canada CEO Louis Martel both provided those written assurances.
The MUA crew, collectively through the delegate, also wrote to Martel and Bisset who responded reiterating the assurances and further advised that all requests by individual crew members to either not be part of this voyage or to be swung off in Taiwan would be accommodated. (As it turned out two members completed their swings on the voyage up and swung off in Taiwan with their replacements flying up to join the vessel)
To further satisfy our concerns the ITF was advised of the situation and National Assistant Secretary Ian Bray contacted our great Comrade SIU Canada President Jim Givens who fronted CSL Canada and received the same assurance that the vessel would be returning to Australia with the Australian crew.
At the same time, Australian ITF Co-ordinator Dean Summers was in contact with the ITF in London and the ITF affiliated unions in Taiwan who offered their support should it be required. From that point the ITF monitored any suspicious movements around the port including any potential replacement crew being prepped.
Comrade Summers and ITF Maritime Coordinator Jacquie Smith arranged for Australian ITF inspector Sarah Maguire to travel to Taipei from where the local affiliates would escort her the two hours to Ho-Ping so that she could be on the ground when the vessel berthed to provide whatever aid and assistance may be required should something untoward occur with the CSL Thevenard or the members on board. The local ITF affiliate also arranged for entry permits so that Comrade Sarah could get on board and talk to the members.
The CSL Thevenard crew and officials with coverage of CSL were kept abreast of all precautions put in place and by the time the CSL Thevenard sailed off the Australian coast the crew and officials were comfortable that the ship would be doing the first short notice international bulk cargo voyage for an Australian crewed vessel in recent memory.
It should be noted that at no stage did the crew consider refusing to sail the vessel, recognising the importance of the voyage and the benefits of providing the level of professional seamanship they and all our seafaring members pride themselves on. We congratulate the crew of the CSL Thevenard.
Prior to the CSL Thevenard sailing from Ho-Ping and losing contact the delegate Tyler Middleton, on behalf of the members on board asked me to pass along their appreciation to Jim Givens and the SIU, to Dean Summers and Jacquie Smith of the ITF and the ITF Chinese affiliate unions but especially to ITF Inspector Sarah Maguire for the outstanding commitment shown in her support of our members, it meant a lot to the crew when Sarah came aboard in Ho-Ping and we know that her commitment is shown to all seafarers in her role as an ITF Inspector.