The Australian crew of the Tandara Spirit chose yesterday to sail the vessel from Port Phillip Bay amid fears over pending court action that could have potentially cost them the family home.
For 20 days, both swings of the crew have bravely taken a stand by defying orders from Teekay and Viva Energy to sail the Tandara Spirit back to Singapore, where they will be made redundant.
Yesterday morning, the crew released an open letter describing the reasons behind their decision to depart for Singapore, despite ongoing concerns over national security, fuel security and protection of Australia’s environment.
“This morning we, the crew of the Tandara Spirit, have decided to end our sit-in,” the letter says.
“Our 20-day action was forced upon us. It has put us under extreme stress. The threat of destructive legal action against us has been of deep concern. We don’t want our wives and families to be worried about losing the family home.
“We are ordinary working people. We’re not trying to be political activists. We just want to do our jobs in Australian waters. So although we are ending our sit in for now, our conviction that we are doing the right thing - both for ourselves and for the nation - is unbent.”
With the closure of Caltex's Kurnell refinery and Shell's Clyde refinery in Sydney and planned closures by BP in Brisbane, Australia now imports 91 per cent of its petroleum products by foreign tankers – up from 60 per cent in 2000.
With Viva’s removal of the Tandara Spirit, there are now only 4 MUA–crewed tankers that operate domestically. BP is also threatening to remove the Australian crew from the British Loyalty in mid-2015.
There are over 100 international tankers that import refined products to Australia and that number will rise.
Maritime Union of Australia Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith said: “We’re seeing more and more Australian jobs being taken offshore – whether it’s shipping or manufacturing.
“The workers onboard the Tandara Spirit are worried about their jobs and their future. They have mortgages to pay off, kids to feed and the threat of personal legal action and potentially losing not just their jobs but their assets as well is why they’ve decided to sail today.
“There are more than 500 seafarers currently out of work so the chances of picking up another job are low. Seafarers working this vessel have been at sea for 20, 30, 40 years and it’s a disgrace that Vitol/Viva want to replace us with workers earning $20 a day.”
Vitol and Viva appear to be chartering ships of a poor standard into the Geelong refinery to replace the Tandara Spirit, including:
· three ships that have been detained at least once;
· a Vietnamese ship with crew paid less than $2 per hour;
· a United Arab Emirates-owned ship which appears to be violating the conditions of the Temporary Licence issued to the ship under the Coastal Trading Act in order to evade their responsibilities under the Fair Work Act; and
· a tanker that recently ran aground in Estonia being used as a storage tank for up to 100,000 tons of fuel in Port Phillip Bay.
MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray said: “The fact that the Vinalines Galaxy was chartered to do the coastal run from Geelong to Adelaide proves there is work for the Tandara Spirit.
“We’re using and importing more fuel and it needs to move around the coast - why not get Australian crews to do it?
“With Australia importing so much of its fuel, what happens if there’s a terrorist attack? Why shouldn’t we continue to run refineries and Australian-crewed vessels as an insurance policy against any interruption in the global supply chain?
“Australia only has about three weeks worth of fuel supplies – I don’t think the community is aware of that.
“This leaves us exposed to terrorist attack and market forces – what will motorists say if there are price hikes out of Singapore or in the spot price for renting ships as a one-off?”
|Victorian Branch Secretary delivers a joint press conference with the ACTU's Dave Oliver|
ABC webstory: Tandara Spirit crew end protest over job losses in Port Philip Bay due to legal concerns.
ABC PM Program: Petrol tanker protest over