The Great Barrier Reef was at risk from oil spill yesterday after a Flag of Convenience (FOC) vessel got into strife, reigniting calls for higher scrutiny of ships trading in Australian waters.
The Australian Maritime and Safety Authority (AMSA) reported that Antigua & Barbuda-flagged vessel, Thor Commander, had damaged its main engine and was drifting uncontrollably around the reef off the central Queensland coast.
|Foreign Flagged Sheng Neng hit the Great Barrier Reef in 2010, spilling oil into the ocean. Picture: ABC News|
Fortunately before the Thor Commander could do any damage a Chinese national-flagged ship, a Queensland Police vessel and an Australian-crewed tug, the Smit Leopard, were able to intervene.
Maritime Union of Australia Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith said these were the kinds of risks posed by allowing FOC ships open access to Australia’s ports and waters.
“FOC ships have much higher rates of safety and seafarer welfare breaches than Australian-flagged ships,” Smith said.
“In September last year alone, AMSA inspected 351 foreign ships and found 1030 deficiencies.
“Thirty-one ships were detained because the deficiencies were so bad, in comparison to zero Australian ships being detained.”
“Just last week a foreign ship was banned from Australia for three months for not having sufficient food and water for the crew.”
MUA Gladstone Organier Jason Miners said vessel voyages traversing the Great Barrier Reef were set to significantly increase as Curtis Island LNG production facilities come online.
“Why do we entrust foreign seafarers, some of which are paid less than $2 an hour, with carrying our LNG – a highly volatile and valuable cargo,” Miners asked.
“Australian seafarers are the most skilled and qualified in the world, surely they are better suited to navigating the Australian icon that is the Great Barrier Reef?”
Miners said he also wanted to congratulate the crew of the Smit Leopard for their work in aiding the damaged vessel.