Conditions on foreign ships entering Australian waters will be under scrutiny this week as the International Transport Workers’ Federation gears up to board and inspect conditions on ‘Flag of Convenience’ (FOC) ships entering Newcastle Port.
Flag of Convenience ships – or ‘Ships of Shame’ – sail without a national flag to avoid being bound by international standards in the treatment of workers and conditions on board. Recently, there has been an unexplained spike in fatalities on FOC ships. One of these ships that landed in Australian waters last month, the Sage Sagittarius, notoriously saw three crew killed on board in the space of six weeks in highly suspicious circumstances.
ITF National Coordinator, Dean Summers, said the Week of Action will run from 12 – 16 November and will involve representatives from Japan, Taiwan, New Zealand, Hong Kong, the Philippines and South Korea.
“Newcastle Port is the biggest coal terminal in the world and ships from this port are responsible for taking our products to the international market,” Mr Summers said.
“Ninety per cent of the world’s trade are transported by ship, employing 1.5 million seafarers and contributing $380 billion to the world economy.
“We are boarding ships to protect the welfare, safety and dignity of international seafarers and we will be reporting to Australian authorities any abuse of rights or safety issues.
“Ships that trade FOC rather than national flag are ‘Ships of Shame’ – they refuse to be bound by national laws regarding minimum safety standards, working conditions and the right to be paid.
“Since January, in Australia we have helped international seafarers claim $1.5 million in back pay from shipping companies that exploit the opportunities presented under the Flag of Convenience,” Mr Summers said.
The Shipping Reform package introduced by the Gillard Government earlier this year will assist to prevent these ships undercutting minimum conditions on ships.
The National Week of Action runs from 12 – 16 November in Newcastle. To follow online, visit https://twitter.com/ITFAUS and http://www.facebook.com/pages/ITF-Australia-FOC-POC-Campaign/534493476576296.