A full air and surface rescue operation is underway off the Queensland coast for a missing foreign crew member from the Flag of Convenience (FOC) bulk carrier SBI Samba.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation Australia (ITF) is demanding Australian authorities conduct a full investigation into why this latest tragedy occurred on a Greek owned ship before it enters an Australian port to load Australian cargo.
The crew member was last seen at 1300hrs AEDT on 12 January but was not noticed missing until 4 hours later, during which time the ship had travelled more than 60 nautical miles south.
The 47 –year –old Filipino seafarer is believed to have gone overboard somewhere off the Queensland coast between Innisfail and Lucinda, while transiting the inner reef.
ITF Australia Coordinator Dean Summers said it appears the ship has left the search area to head to port to load cargo. Australian authorities, including Queensland water police are conducting the search effort.
“Appallingly, the ship’s command appears to place more importance on their cargo than their own seafarers’ life,” MrSummers said.
“ITF Australia demands an immediate inquiry as to what happened, before the ship is allowed to enter an Australian port and start loading Australian cargo.”
It is the latest in a shocking run off Australia’s coast. In Maylast year, the FOC Spring Hydrangea suffered a Man Over Board (MOB) and refused to investigate. Its Japanese owners are still refusing to pay compensation to the seafarer’s wife and two young children.
And the infamous (FOC) Sage Sagittarius case – where 3 men died, including one MOB – is now the subject of a NSW Coronial Inquiry.
“This is the modern-day scourge of FOC – the same model the Turnbull Government is allowing to replace the Australian domestic shipping industry,” Mr Summers said.
“Too many times foreign seafarers have lost their lives and their employer use the excuse Man Over Board to avoid a proper investigation. These tragedies go under-reported, demonstrating to the world that these employers think international seafarers are a disposable commodity.
“Under the lawless FOC system, the country where the ship is registered has the responsibility to investigate. If this happens at all in FOC countries like North Korea, Panama, Mongolia and the Marshall Islands, the reports are scant and incidental.
“While at this stage there are no reports of foul play, the ITF wants to ensure this is not a replay of the Sage Sagittarius.”
The 229-metre bulk carrier SBI Samba, owned by Scorpio Commercial Management and registered in Monaco is heading toward the BHP Terminal at Hay Point, North Queensland.