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FINDINGS OF CORONIAL INQUEST INTO SEAFARER DEATHS HIGHLIGHT RISKS TO AUSTRALIA’S NATIONAL SECURITY

May 31, 2017

SENATOR GLENN STERLE

LABOR SENATOR FOR WESTERN AUSTRALIA

CHAIR – SENATE RURAL, REGIONAL AFFAIRS & TRANSPORT REFERENCES COMMITTEE

 

 

FINDINGS OF CORONIAL INQUEST INTO SEAFARER DEATHS HIGHLIGHT RISKS TO AUSTRALIA’S NATIONAL SECURITY

 

The Coroner found that the ship’s chief cook and chief engineer met with foul play at the hand/s of other unidentified persons on board the Flag of Convenience (FOC) ship.

 

The Coroner when handing down her findings said: “This inquest has highlighted the fact there are very significant practical impediments created by a disappearance or death on board a foreign flagged vessel.”

 

On 18 June 2015, the Senate moved that the increasing use of so-called Flag of Convenience shipping in Australia be referred to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee for inquiry and report.

 

Every ship engaged in international trade has a nation registration that determines the laws all persons and activities aboard it are subject to, regardless of where in the world the ship is operating. The term 'Flag of Convenience' (FOC) ship refers to those vessels engaged in international navigation but which are not registered in the state with which the ship is most closely associated.

 

There are several reasons why FOC registration is used, most of which have the effect of reducing operating costs, including: reducing the tax burden that ship owners are subject to; making the vessel subject to less stringent labour legislation required for crews, thereby reducing wages and the financial burden of enforcing higher working conditions and safety standards; minimising current exchange and investment controls that ship owners are subject to; and avoiding costs from meeting more stringent safety or inspection regimes for vessels.

 

“What we have seen from the Coronial Inquiry today is that the worst possible outcome has occurred by allowing FOC ships to operate in our waters without proper regulation from the Federal Government,” Committee Chair Senator Glenn Sterle said.

 

“In early May of this year, my committee produced a report which made a total of 9 recommendations which sought to encourage the Government to fully analyse the security risks FOC ships pose to the Australian maritime community and to our national security and which also sought to encourage the government to look seriously at what they can do to build the Australian flagged shipping industry so that we don’t have to rely on FOC’s to do the work that Australian vessels and Australian seafarers could and should be doing”, Senator Sterle said.

 

In its response to the Committee’s recommendations in its Interim Report, the Government effectively dismissed all of them. This is in direct contrast to comments made by representatives of Australian Border Force who warned of the threat that FOC’s pose to not only the exploitation of foreign workers but to Australia’s national security by providing potential terrorists and criminal syndicates with an opportunity to compromise our border security.

 

The Coroner’s report today reinforces all of the other evidence which has been provided to the committee and should ring alarm bells. This government is putting at risk the lives of seafarers as well as our national security.

 

Media contact: Ben Wholagan 0400 685 543

 

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