Police Task Force For The Waterfront?

MUA responds to Police Task Force.

The Sydney Morning Herald today (28/07/2010) reported the imminent introduction of a joint Federal/State Taskforce to "close gaps in the maritime security regime".

The Maritime Union of Australia supports any positive initiatives around improvements to security on the waterfront but there is still too much that is unknown about this prospective police taskforce for the MUA to say anything with certainty.

"The way this taskforce has suddenly appeared in the media does not impress. We would want to be closely involved with any body so that we can be certain that any investigation is properly informed", said Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary of the MUA.

"The expression 'waterfront worker' is thrown around liberally and often wharfies become the generic target. But a task force's domain needs to cover foreign seafarers, container parks and all areas of the freight-forwarding industry", said Crumlin.
"If any task force does get off the ground we hope it's outcomes put an end to the all to frequent media attacks on maritime workers that tarnishes the reputation and valued commitment of the entire maritime workforce to the nations import and export performance."
"Other inquiries, the Costigan Commission most notably, found that criminality on the wharves was largely white-collar controlled and executed rather than pointing to wharfies and seafarers."  
As the MUA pointed out in its submission to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Australian Crime Commission, a number of issues need to be considered in an inquiry like the one mooted.

" A key hole is any requirement for background checks for those who have ultimate responsibly for the allocation of labour, the scheduling of ships, awarding of transport logistics contracts and recruitment of employees", Crumlin said.
Other issues include:

  • The use of contracted security staff in most terminals with no continuity or commitment to the worksite.
  • Lack of attention to waterside and aviation restricted zones.
  • The inconsistent and low level of background checks required for a Maritime Crew Visas for Foreign Seafarers to work in the Australian coasting trade.
  • The unavailability of Australian regulated and crewed ships to accommodate our coastal trade leaving us reliant on foreign flagged substitute.
  • The inability for Maritime Security Identity Cards (MSICs) to be applied consistently in real terms to foreign nationals granted unescorted access through maritime security regulated zones such as ships, ports and facilities.
  • The carriage of high consequence and dangerous goods such as explosive grade ammonium nitrate into and around our port cities on substandard ships.
  • The very low reserve of an Australian maritime skills base to fill core jobs in our ports, terminals, regulators and associated industries.
  • The low level of container inspections and the nonexistent level of inspecting of "reportedly" empty containers shipped around into and around the Australian coast.
  • Concerns around the stuffing and un-stuffing of containers by "unchecked" staff outside of the security regulated zones.