The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) says that a major blaze today on board the livestock carrier Ocean Drover in Fremantle once again shows the dangers of sub-standard Flag of Convenience (FOC) shipping.
Firefighters are battling a blaze on board the world’s largest purpose-built livestock vessel, berthed at Rouse Head, with some crew members believed to still be on board. One person has been taken to Fremantle Hospital.
ITF Australia Co-ordinator Dean Summers said an ITF inspector is on the scene, working to ensure the safety of the crew and the provision of appropriate accommodation and services.
Mr Summers said around 70 seafarers from the Philippines and India work on the vessel, which is Australian-owned, managed in Croatia, and flagged in Singapore.
“As always our first concern is for the seafarers who are often forced to live in unsafe, cramped and dangerous conditions,” Mr Summers said.
“The crew does not have the appropriate ITF agreement to guarantee minimum pay and conditions for those working on board the vessel.
“Unfortunately the Australian owners have used the FOC system which has been at the centre of serious problems in the region.
“ITF inspectors and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) have found an increased number of breaches since the adoption of the Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) under the previous Labor Government.
“This has resulted in around $3.5mn in stolen wages being delivered in the past 12 months and a three-month ban on Vega Auriga from entering into Australia waters, yet the Abbott Government seems hell-bent on bringing more FOC vessels to the Australian coast.”
The ship owners, Wellard Estates, also operate two sister ships – the Ocean Swagman and Ocean Outback – which also trade to south-east Asia Australia under the same arrangements.
Minister for Infrastructure Warren Truss last month signaled an end to cabotage, which is the set of rules that level the playing field for Australian ships on our coast.
ITF President Paddy Crumlin said the retention and improvement of the 2012 Coastal Trading Act by the Abbott Government would protect Australian jobs, the maritime skills base and the environment.
“The Abbott Government’s changes could directly impact around 2,000 direct jobs and up to 8,000 associated jobs so 10,000 Aussie jobs could be on the chopping block,” Mr Crumlin said.
“Cabotage is not industry assistance in that no taxpayer funds are directed to the Australian shipping industry.
“Shipping is essential to national security and we cannot allow essential skills to be placed in the hands of non-Australian interests.
“What we don’t want to see is more Flag of Convenience (FOC) ships, with their poor standards and exploited crews, take over our ports and displace Australian vessels.”
The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) is made up of around 700 unions representing over 4.5 million transport workers from some 150 countries.