The International Transport Workers’ Federation has warned of potential environmental damage to parts of the Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay due to unsafe hull cleaning practices on a flag of convenience vessel at Appleton Dock in Melbourne.
|[Picture: Crew from the Sat Nunki attempt to clean one of five hatches without proper safety equipment.]|
The ITF has urged immediate action to prevent the ship owners and operators from continuing to cut corners with workplace and environmental safety.
The incident follows a failed ship inspection, with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority finding the Sat Nunki was too unclean to carry grain as its hatches had previously been filled with phosphate and coal.
ITF Australia coordinator Dean Summers said that the local marine environment was being threatened by the inappropriate cleaning regime on the vessel, operated by Greek company Apex for Indonesian owner Indofood.
“Normally cleaning would occur well out to sea, and would be done with proper safety and environmental protocols, but instead we are seeing a rushed job taking place because the vessel was found to be too unclean to carry its cargo of grain,” Mr Summers said.
“This cleaning is taking place without proper environmental safeguards and we also have photographic evidence of crew members carrying out work in a manner that clearly breaches Australian workplace health and safety legislation.
“We believe that if the waste from inside the vessel’s holds are not cleared away properly this material could lead to devastating environmental consequences for the surrounding area.
“We have also been informed that the Chinese and Burmese crew members are owed $60,000USD in unpaid wages, which only confirms that the ship owner and operator only care about the bottom-line.
"The ITF plans to confront the operators and launch action against these rouges, especially as another Apex ship is due into Adelaide tomorrow.”
The ITF has also criticised the Port of Melbourne Corporation for their inadequate response to safety concerns relating to the cleaning of the Sat Nunki.
In a response to a letter from the ITF about the incident, Port of Melbourne Corporation CEO Stephen Bradford attempted to buck-pass any responsibility, stating: “The method in which the vessel undertakes the above [EPA] requirements is a matter for the vessel or shipping line.”
“We believe this response is completely unacceptable and we are urging the Port of Melbourne Corporation to show leadership in ensuring environmental and workplace laws are upheld,” Mr Summers said.