Vittol Tanker Decision Defies Logic on National Energy Security

The MUA is furious at multi-billion dollar Swiss energy company Vitol’s decision to sack members working on-board the product tanker Tandara Spirit.

Vitol (also known as Viva Energy) is a private $300 billion oil trading company that bought Shell's downstream business in Australia for $2.9 billion three months ago. Vitol boast that they have more than 200 ships at sea at any one time. Yet as soon as they bought into the Australian petroleum business, they are stealthily sacking Australian crew and undermining Australian fuel security.

 

The union was informed by Teekay yesterday that Vitol will “hand back the Tandara Spirit in January 2015” yet to the shock of the  36 seafarers who work on the vessel a plan of stealth was hatched by the company whereby thevessel would leave Australia in two days and dump the Australian crew, unemployed in Singapore. .

As a result, the MUA has filed a submission in Fair Work Australia to halt the intentions of the company. There is also an MOU between the MUA and Shell, which is being ignored.

“We are disgusted by this plan to remove by stealth an Australian-crewed vesselwith just two days notice in contravention of the EBA and a signed MOU.” MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith said.

“The Abbott Government is handing the nations fuel supply and security to corporate and foreign control.”

“As an Australian-crewed and managed vessel with an outstanding safety record, the Tandara Spirit provides a safe and secure way to transport fuel around Australia and to import fuel from overseas. We need more ships like TandaraSpirit, not less.” Smith said.

With the closure of Caltex's Kurnell refinery and Shell's Clyde refinery in Sydney and planned closures by BP in Brisbane, Australia now imports 91 per cent of its petrol and diesel by foreign tankers – up from 60 per cent in 2000.

The move comes just one week after it was revealed in the media that terrorist group Al Qaeda has urged jihadists to attack oil tankers in two maritime hotspots that supply Australia with up to 70 per cent of its petrol, raising concern over the nation's near complete reliance on imports.

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said fuel security raises fundamental questions of national security and sovereign risk for some of Australia’s biggest industries, let alone our food supply and our motorists’ right to expect a constant supply of fuel at a reasonable price.

“Australia is more reliant than ever before on shipping for its fuel security yet companies are shifting to use international-flag, international-owned, international-managed and international-crewed ships with demonstrably poorer safety records than Australian-crewed and managed tankers,” Mr Crumlin said.

“Australian companies and the Australian Government do not have the capacity to take control of and re-direct these tankers in the event of a fuel emergency.

“The use of the spot-market to charter tankers contributes to the persistently high rates of deficiencies and detentions of tankers by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority as it leads to a very high turnover of tankers used for imports to this country.”

The National Roads and Motoring Association (NRMA) has said that Australia has small and declining fuel stocks – about three weeks’ worth of refined fuels.

It’s also worth noting that there have been instances of poor fuel quality in fuel arriving from Singapore – one of which was refused by the RAAF.

There are currently 5 MUA–crewed tankers that operate domestically servicing refineries but these jobs may disappear as domestic refineries close. Two of those ships are under immediate and imminent threat of removal from the coast.

There is up to 100 international tankers that import refined products to Australia and that number will rise. Not one Australian seafarer would crew any of that massive number of ships that supply our nations fuel needs.

Inaddition, the Abbott Government wants to unwind Labor’s 2012 changes to the Coastal Trading Act and thereby deregulate the shipping industry and open up the coast to foreign seafarers, who can apply for short-term visas which require no background checks.

These same Maritime Crew Visas are also used in the offshore oil and gas industry as a result of changes made by the Abbott Government.

Independent Senator John Madigan has launched a Parliamentary inquiry into the country's fuel security, to which the MUA is putting a submission.