The Senate Standing Committees on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport have published a report which raises serious concerns about the increase in the use of so-call Flag of Convenience in shipping in Australia.
Flag of Convenience refers to the practice of registering ships in countries with lax tax and regulatory regimes such as Liberia, Panama and the Marshall Islands. These vessels are not subject to the same kind of safety procedures and labour laws as ships registered in developed countries.
The committee has raised concerns that these regulatory blackspots might be exploited by organised crime or terrorist groups.
The committee also raised concerns about the serious economic and environmental danger posed by under regulated shipping.
The committee has recommended:
- The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) implement an inspection program for ships with foreign seafarers to verify paid wages meet Australian legal requirements.
- The Federal Government fund the FWO wages inspection program.
- The Federal Government implement clear procedures on how to respond to deaths that occur on ships travelling in or to Australian waters.
- The Federal Government consider legislative amendments to provide clarity on jurisdictional responsibility for investigating deaths on ships travelling in Australian waters.
- The re-establishment of an advisory body made up of key maritime industry stakeholders to advise government on new Australian shipping policies and workforce development and training opportunities.
- The Federal Government review the Australian maritime industry with a view to grow and support it.
- The Federal Government review the potential economic, security and environmental risks presented by FOC vessels and foreign crew.
Quotes attributable to Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) President Ged Kearney:
“In a week when the Turnbull Government has reshaped huge portions of the public service in the name of national security, it is unacceptable that this Government continues to ignore the threat posed by Flag of Convenience shipping.”
“The system is broken if you have vessels which are not subject to modern safety and security regulations, or labour laws. They are effectively operating outside the framework of any modern legal system, that poses an obvious threat to our national security which cannot be ignored.”
“This is yet another example of this government giving too much power to multinational companies which run these ships. We need to put national security and the interests of Australian workers ahead of profits. It’s staggering that this needs to be pointed out to this government.”
Media contact: Peter Green 0400 764 200 or ACTU Media 03 9664 7315