Union Warns Of More Oil Spills

Maritime Union warns of further environmental damage - unless steps are taken to revitalise Australian shipping

The Maritime Union of Australia today declared the grounding of the Chinese coal ship Shen Neng 1 on the Great Barrier Reef a terrible outcome for the environment, but warned unless urgent and positive moves were taken to revitalise Australian shipping other disasters may be in store.  

"This calamity unfortunately shouldn't come as a huge surprise.  It comes at a time when an increasing proportion of our coastal shipping trade is being handed to overseas flagged vessels.  The deregulation of shipping through the Howard Government's years has inevitably weakened our control of our shipping task", said Paddy Crumlin National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia.  

"Foreign ships have been responsible for all the recent marine environmental accidents including when the Hong Kong flagged Pacific Adventurer spread oil onto pristine Queensland beaches last year and the Panama flagged Pasha Bulka was stranded on Nobby's beach, Newcastle in 2008.

"The statistics tell the story. Of the 10 major oil spills involving bluewater vessels since the Panamanian registered Kirki spilt 17,280 tonnes of oil off West Australia in 1990, nearly all have been foreign registered", said Crumlin. 

Foreign ships now carry 99 per cent of our international trade and 30 per cent of our domestic coastal trade.

"The shipping industry is waiting breathlessly for the Government to make some critical decisions on a shipping policy package to commit to the necessary fiscal and regulatory changes needed to keep Australian shipping afloat", said Crumlin.

If we're not serious about having an industry, training seafarers into critical areas such as Pilotage and having a voice in the world, we'll carry all of the risk with none of the control"

"It's absurd that foreign ships are dominating our coastal and international cargoes, many of them are dilapidated, carrying crew that are being paid a pittance to work and are environmental disasters waiting to happen.  

"Australian registered vessels operating on the coastal trade now number less than 40 and it's estimated another 8 ships could disappear over the next 2 or 3 years. No industry, no skills equals groundings , oil spills and maritime disasters ad nauseum." said Crumlin.

Mr Crumlin said the industry and its workforce were looking for projected positive government decisions to revitalise the industry after many years of neglect.

"The determination by the Rudd Government on how they will assert leadership in this critical industry to the national interest has gained increased importance with this latest disaster. More will follow. Both the Minister for Transport Alabanese and the Prime Minister have identified the importance of a string shipping policy in the national interest before and since election. After a long consideration on how to secure a safe and sustainable industry, they now need to tell us how they're going to deliver it"

The Maritime Union of Australia today declared the grounding of the Chinese coal ship Shen Neng 1 on the Great Barrier Reef a terrible outcome for the environment, but warned unless urgent and positive moves were taken to revitalise Australian shipping other disasters may be in store.  

"This calamity unfortunately shouldn't come as a huge surprise.  It comes at a time when an increasing proportion of our shipping trade is being handed to overseas flagged vessels.  The deregulation of shipping through the Howard Government's years has inevitably weakened our control of our shipping task," said Paddy Crumlin National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia.  

 "Foreign ships have been responsible for all the recent shipping  environmental accidents including when the Hong Kong flagged Pacific Adventurer spread oil onto pristine Queensland beaches last year and the Panama flagged Pasha Bulka was stranded on Nobby's beach, Newcastle in 2008.

"The statistics tell the story. Of the 10 major oil spills involving bluewater vessels since the Panamanian registered Kirki spilt 17,280 tonnes of oil off West Australia in 1990, only two have involved Australian registered ships", said Crumlin. 

Foreign ships now carry 99 per cent of our international trade and 30 per cent of our domestic coastal trade.

"The shipping industry is waiting breathlessly for the Government to make some critical decisions on a shipping policy package to commit to the necessary fiscal and regulatory changes needed to keep Australian shipping afloat," said Crumlin.

"There for instance needs to be a change in the laws and regulation governing coastal shipping so that Australian ships and crews are predominantly used in the domestic trades, with only limited use of permits for overseas vessels in exceptional circumstances.

"It's absurd that foreign ships are dominating our coastal cargoes, many of them are dilapidated, carrying crew that are being paid a pittance to work and are environmental disasters waiting to happen.  

"Australian registered vessels operating on the coastal trade now number less than 40 and it's estimated another 8 ships could disappear over the next 2 or 3 years", said Crumlin.

Mr Crumlin said the industry and its workforce were looking for positive government decisions to:

 • Change laws and regulation governing coastal shipping so that Australian ships and crews are used in the domestic trades, with only limited use of permits in exceptional circumstances.

  • Introduce a tonnage tax to replace the current corporate tax aimed at encouraging investment in Australian ships
  • Introduce tax concessions for Australian seafarers working predominantly in international trades to improve the competitiveness of Australian seafarers in the global seafarer labour market and to support Australian international shipping
  • Adopt an industry driven national shipping workforce planning framework to boost numbers and skills of seafarers to prepare for the rapidly expanding freight task.
  • Create an Australian international ships register so Australia has a two tier ship registration system - one for coastal ships and one for international ships.

Media Contact: Paddy Crumlin 0418 379660

Michael Meagher: 0410 482367

PHOTO: 

In this image provided by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, the Chinese carrier Shen Neng 1 is hard aground on the Great Barrier Reef near Great Keppel Island tourist resort, Australia, Sunday, April 4, 2010. The 230 meter (755 foot) bulk carrier was carrying about 65,000 metric tons (72,000 U.S. tons) of coal from Gladstone to China when it ran aground Saturday.

See ABC video footage of the skill and read "Fury over oil spill blunder," ABC News