Too Many Workers Losing Lives In Maritime Disasters

The Maritime Union of New Zealand says that too many workers being killed or injured on overseas vessels in and around New Zealand waters.

Five crew are confirmed dead and 17 missing presumed dead after the No. 1 In Sung sank at around 6.30am Monday 13 December, 2,700km south-east of Bluff.

The Korean-owned and operated fishing vessel visited Bluff annually from December 2006 to take on stores as it headed to the Ross Sea to fish for Antarctic toothfish.

Maritime Union General Secretary Joe Fleetwood says while it is too early to comment on the reasons behind the sinking of the No. 1 In Sung, the Union was concerned that this was the second such incident in the past few months.

The Union offered its condolences to the families of the dead and its support to the survivors.

Mr Fleetwood said that the focus had to be on stopping disasters from happening.

"It shouldn't be happening. We shouldn't have to be pulling people out of the water. We have to ask in the 21st century why these incidents are now a regular event in our waters and nearby oceans."

He said that as New Zealand search and rescue and New Zealand vessels were involved in rescue efforts, it was important that a New Zealand based inquiry was held to find out what had gone wrong.

In August 2010, three crew died after the Oyang 70 sank off the South Island.

Eyewitness reports indicate that an overweight net being pulled into the Oyang 70 caused it to destabilize and sink.

In another incident, two crew died from asphyxiation aboard the bulk carrier TPC Wellington in the Port of Whangarei in May 2010.

Mr Fleetwood says the Maritime Union has encountered ongoing problems experienced by overseas crews on merchant and fishing vessels, including health and safety issues.

A string of deaths, injuries, complaints of abuse and desertions have occurred over recent years.