Senate Agrees To Continue FOC Inquiry

The Maritime Union of Australia is pleased by the decision to reinstate the Senate Inquiry into Flag of Convenience shipping.

The recent double dissolution election meant that all Senate inquiries concluded with the closing of the Parliament.

The new Parliament has now decided to continue the inquiry.

With the retirement of long-serving NSW Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan, this inquiry is now headed by Queensland LNP Senator Barry O’Sullivan.

Senator O’Sullivan, a former police detective, is a strong supporter of the inquiry, as it deputy chair, the ALP's Glenn Sterle.

The committee put out an interim report before the election.

The interim makes many references to a suite of work that the MUA and ITF have been driving and includes:

   ·   The erosion of the Australian flag through unfair FOC competition

   ·   Environmental impact from FOCs

   ·   Loss of jobs and erosion of maritime skills base

   ·   Fuel Security

   ·   National Security

   ·   Cabotage

   ·   Temporary Licences

   ·   Sage Sagittarius

   ·   Portland dispute

The recommendations are below:

Recommendation 1

4.12 The committee recommends that the Commonwealth undertake a review of the Australian maritime sector, with a view to building on the 2012 reforms aimed at growing the Australian-flagged shipping industry in the future.


Recommendation 2

4.13 The committee recommends that this review include a comprehensive whole-of-government assessment of the potential security risks posed by flag of convenience vessels and foreign crews.


Recommendation 3

4.14 The committee recommends that this review include consideration of ways to harmonise the operations of the Australian shipping sector across jurisdictions through COAG to reduce red tape for vessel and port operators, including cargo handling provisions. 


Recommendation 4

4.15 The committee recommends that this review include widespread consultation with the Australian shipping industry to ensure that its findings are relevant and directed to shared objectives for the future of the local maritime sector.


Recommendation 5

4.16 The committee recommends that the Commonwealth immediately tighten the provisions for temporary licenses in Australian maritime law, to flag of convenience vessels being used on permanent coastal freight routes if they fail to pay Australian award wages to their crew.


Recommendation 6

4.17 The committee recommends that the Commonwealth adopt a broader and more rigorous approach to the risk assessment and oversight of seafarers working in Australian waters on maritime visas, and better share this information across relevant Commonwealth and jurisdictional agencies.


Recommendation 7

4.18 The committee recommends that the Australian Government continue to work with international agencies, including the International Labour Organisation (ILO), to improve the working conditions, safety standards, and rates of remuneration for seafarers working in international shipping.


Recommendation 8

4.19 The committee recommends that the Australian government look for ways to support the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) to make flag of convenience shipping more accountable to international law and, when in Australian waters, to our national regulations.


Recommendation 9

4.20 The committee recommends that the Commonwealth consider ways to improve the early intervention and counselling resources available to crews on international vessels, including those operating on flag of convenience registers.

Review the report in full here.