Three Years Since Departure Of Alexander Spirit As Fuel Security Worsens

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has accused the Turnbull Government of sitting on its hands over fuel security as the union and Devonport community commemorate three years since the departure of Tasmania’s last Australian crewed fuel tanker, the Alexander Spirit.

The Alexander Spirit infamously sat for three weeks in Devonport in July 2015, with the Australian crew refusing to sail because land-based workers told them they would be sacked and replaced by an exploited foreign crew at the next port destination.

“It is now three years since the last petrol tanker with Australian workers on board left Tasmania and nationally, we are now down to just two to three weeks supply of petrol and almost no storage capacity,” MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray said.

“We are rallying to remember the dispute and remind the then sitting Member for Braddon Brett Whiteley and the Turnbull Government that it’s not good enough to sell out Australian jobs and outsource our nation’s fuel supplies to foreign ships and multinational companies.”

Bray said the Abbott/Turnbull Government has sat on its hands over fuel security, with our nation having been non-compliant with the International Energy Agency’s 90-day fuel stockholding obligation since March 2012.

“There are now no Australian-crewed tankers supplying fuel to our nation, down from 12 in the year 2000. At the same time, the number of refineries has halved to four. This means we now import more than 90 per cent of our fuel and that number is rising,” Bray said.

MUA Tasmanian Branch Secretary Jason Campbell paid tribute to the crew who refused to sail and thanked the local Devonport community who supported the dispute three years ago.

“The crew of the Alexander Spirit was sacked and Tasmania lost its last fuel tanker with Australians working on board – many of those workers still haven’t found another job,” Campbell said.

“Multinationals and the Federal Government said it was about cost yet the price of petrol has gone up by more than 30 cents a litre since then.

“Brett Whiteley stood by and let those jobs sail over the horizon; he didn’t even stop to address the workers whose jobs were on the chopping block. Don’t bring him back. Put the Liberals last at the Braddon by-election on July 28.” 

Engineers Australia told a Senate inquiry into fuel security that Australia's total stockholding of oil and liquid fuel comprised two weeks of supply at sea, five to 12 days' supply at refineries, 10 days of refined stock at terminals and three days at service stations.

“Australians would expect our Government to have a better plan and this would involve more refining here and Australian-crewed ships to carry it around the coast,” Bray said. 

“This isn’t only a matter of fuel security but also national security. Unlike Australian seafarers, foreign crews have no background checks yet they are carrying petroleum products, ammonium nitrate and LNG around the Australian coast. 

“Unlike the United States, in a time of national emergency, the Australian Government has no means to use an act of Parliament to second ships to a merchant navy. We simply don’t have enough Australian-flagged and crewed ships and that needs to change.”


MEDIA ALERT: 11.30am, Saturday July 21

What: Rally To Mark Three Years Since The Departure of the Alexander Spirit

Where: 11.30am assemble at Finlayson Way, Devonport. Then march to East Devonport Park

Speakers at 12.30pm: ACTU Secretary Sally McManus, MUA Assistant Secretary Ian Bray, Alexander Spirit crew member Joanne Kerin, ALP Candidate for Braddon Justine Keay

Media Contact: Darrin Barnett: 0428 119 703