MSC Basel runs aground in another Flag of Convenience near disaster

The Maritime Union of Australia has again raised serious concerns over the Flag of Convenience (FOC) shipping system, after another near disaster when the Liberian-flagged MSC Basel ran aground off Brisbane yesterday morning.

MUA Queensland Secretary Mick Carr said this latest incident again showed the deregulated ship registration system, known as the Flag of Convenience, exposed Australia to a high level of vulnerability for Australian jobs, environment and maritime security.

Mr Carr said Liberian-flagged vessels had a diabolical record when it came to shipping incidents in Australian waters.

"This one involving the MSC Basel is just the latest example of a near disaster due to this ongoing and dangerous practice of using flags of convenience," he said.

"Just last month we saw a major incident when the multi-million dollar Australian fishing vessel MV Apollo S was sunk at Port Lincoln in South Australia thanks to being rammed by another Liberian flag of convenience vessel the Grand Rodosi.

"This latest incident in Moreton Bay shows yet again that the rogues need to be weeded out of the international shipping industry."

Mr Carr said other incidents this year included the Magdalene, also flying the Liberian flag, which caused an oil spill in August in Newcastle Harbour, and the Liberian-registered Ocean Emperor which broke down 60 nautical miles off Cairns and drifted towards the Great Barrier Reef in July.

Mr Carr said the latest shipping incident was a stark reminder of when the Pasha Bulka, a Panama flag of convenience vessel, grounded off Newcastle in 2007 and caused huge disruption in the area.
He said foreign ships have been responsible for all the recent shipping environmental accidents, including when the Hong Kong-flagged Pacific Adventurer spread a large amount of oil onto pristine south-east Queensland beaches last year.
Mr Carr called for the Gillard Government to speed up ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention and to ensure that AMSA is fully resourced to perform its new Port State Control functions.

He said enforcement of the Convention will help improve seafarer quality, will police crew fatigue and will ensure that FOC ships coming to Australia adopt the new international standards.

Mr Carr also said that implementation of shipping policy announced during the Federal election would also result in the removal of some poor quality FOC ships from the Australian coast.