Maritime Union of Australia Queensland Branch statement in response to Smit Lamnalco Towage Australia (SLTA) Press Statement.

Published: 19 Feb 2020

Maritime Union of Australia Queensland Branch statement in response to Smit Lamnalco Towage Australia (SLTA) Press Statement.

In response to the ordinary and unprofessional response to the MUA pursuing safety and outcomes for its members we provide the following response.

  1. SLTA PNG/AU LinkedIn status update implies that every member of the MUA is lying and speaking untruths regarding the three catastrophic engine failures which resulted in the engines exploding inside out. They did explode with shrapnel projecting throughout the engine room and it’s just off the press that you’ve had another two major engine breakdowns since your release. There are photos to back this up. Your organisations response to the explosions was to put up a welding curtain to mitigate the risk! If it wasn’t so serious it would be laughable to think that a curtain would assist the situation when cast metal covers exploded off the side of the engines leaving only the bolts intact. One only needs to look at the pictures to see this.
  2. The Union and its members will seek legal advice in response to you seeking damages, given the fact you’ve made false allegations about the Union and its officials. The status of SLTA in the community as being "guilty by association" is false. At no point has an MUA member lied to an official or an official lied about SLTA. (We encourage RTI with the relevant authorities if there’s any doubts by the readers).
  3. At no point did any MUA member or official conduct or proceed in any illegal industrial action from the members homework for SLTA. In fact, we called a meeting to discuss with the members the findings from AMSA regarding the company SLTA contracted for the SL Quoin delivery who were found to be in breach of MLC2006. Given the deafening silence and leadership void from SLTA, we took matters into our own hands to ensure our members were safe and we will do the same again should we stumble across the same level of consultation and incompetence in the future. AMSA also found 14 defects with the Tug which resulted in its delayed sailing!
  4. SLTA forget to mention the SL Curtis Island, the first tug docked, went to Cairns. Cairns was the intended docking destination for all 5 Island class vessels. SLTA should now explain why they are no longer using the CAIRNS based dockyard and how SLTA have possibly damaged another relationship whist sending work offshore to cheap exploited labour while raking in the fiscal benefits of the lucrative towage contract in Gladstone paid from Queensland coffers.
  5. The MUA didn’t initiate any dispute over the PNG outsourcing episode, we simply came into a dispute lodged by another department and challenged the right for Queensland workers to do the work on your tugs which we will do time and time again. We are also advocating for the work to be performed in Queensland facilities by Queensland tradesmen and women. Again, an issue we will continue to fight for.
  6. SLTA failed to mention that the tugs delivery crew were on dodgy agreements that weren’t even compliant with the IMO standards and were deemed to be illegal along with unsafe crewing levels as deters has the regulatory body.
  7. False allegations re: the rally of support against your dodgy actions saw approx. 40 community members join the MUA "tugboat meeting" on the 11th. Due to the pouring rain it was held at the VMR undercover, Glenn Wetters drove past the demonstration so would have witnessed it.
  8. When an engine internally explodes, its shoots projectiles out of it and causes oil to escape from the sealed engine. Internally an explosion is created from the oil turning from a liquid to a mist then with the seizure of the piston produces heat which then creates a bang that causes an explosion. The engine is fitted with "crank case explosion alarms". An explosion is exactly what happened and to call it anything else, but an explosion is misleading and simply untrue.
  9. The employees have not been adequately consulted nor have they agreed on a suitable roster for the operation because SLTA are putting profit and uncertainty before fatigue risk.
  10. None of the contractors have a marine qualification. Under AMSA marine certifications, to be or act as an engineer you must be marine qualified or supervised by the chief engineer of that vessel.
  11. All 10 tugs are not FIFI compliant. One tug doesn't even have a firefighting monitor on the deck, another tug has the FIFI clutches removed in the engine room. This is another untruth in your response given all the tugs were NOT firefighting compliant.
  12. The SL Yallarm which is the last vessel to have the engine explode and currently sitting in Brisbane awaiting both engines to be replaced. Yes, 57T maybe capable for shipping in the case of the SL Cook but the harbor minimum requirement is 70TBP which the SL Cook is not and is a breach of contract which SLTA has failed to mention in their attempted rebuttal.
  13. Secondary shifts are 24-hours on-call with workers not knowing their start or finish time.
  14. Instead of SLTA offering FT positions to their casual staff they are choosing to offer 50% PPT which halves their annual income. Since 2015 a casual has earnt the equivalent to or over a FT wage, so it is halving their guaranteed wage they are entitled to.
  15. Currently under the EA there are 28 FT GPH/IR, we are seeking that number go to 40. This is would mean 12-hour shifts as per major industry standard vs 24-hour on-call shifts which are unsafe and irrelevant in the Port of Gladstone. Due to SLTA changing the roster last EA, we no longer do 3 weeks on, 3 weeks off. We now do 3on/3off/3on/4off/3on/2off/2on/2off/3on etc. Another misinformation in your response.
  16. MUA members since 2015 have been to the FWC twice. One win and one result pending which we are confident of winning and will appeal if necessary, to see that the agreement we reached isn’t reneged on because SLTA want to expose our members to more risk of fatigue for an extra buck.
  17. Only yesterday another vessel has been laid up for how long, who knows. SLTA don't have 10 Tugs that are 70TBP at all times and are not meeting their obligations to their employees nor their clients.

We, as the Union, on behalf of our members want to ensure the workforce and Union are consulted and the agreements we make are adhered to.

We will always stick our nose into safety because when it’s left to employers, we see episodes like we have in Townsville where there will be fines and improvement notices issued to SLTA for exposing workers to the banned poisonous PFAS firefighting foam banned some 8 years ago.

We also see the true colors of the profit driven ideologues in management who expose workers to what we say is unnecessary risk in their place of work with Gladstone being exhibit “A”. Engine explosions and a curtain as the quick fix!

Surely the head of SLTA, Mr Fethers as a master mariner knows that leadership is from the top down and have left a team of either ill-experienced managers or careless ones need to be held accountable for their actions. Additionally, who shift away from taking full responsibility just further illustrate and exacerbate the very issues we are facing right now and the very reason that maritime workers need a trusted trade union like the MUA to look out for them when their superiors are rudderless and not “on course”.


Jason Miners

Deputy Branch Secretary Maritime Union of Australia
Proud Union Representative and Australian Merchant Seafarer


Authorised by P Crumlin, Maritime Union of Australia, Sydney