ITF blasts Australian government over revelations from “death ship” probe

The ongoing Australian senate hearing into flag of convenience (FOC) shipping is raising “shocking concerns”, according to the maritime coordinator of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), Jacqueline Smith.

The latest hearing revealed that the captain of the “death ship” Sage Sagittarius bulk carrier, on which three people have died in suspicious circumstances, was allowed to work off the Australian coast for eight months, despite claims of involvement in potential firearms offences, ITF writes.

The former Captain Venancio Salas, who testified within a coronial inquest before the New South Wales Coroner Court for the first time in February, had confessed to taking a commission for selling guns to crew members while on board the bulker and also admitted of being involved in physical confrontations with one of the ship’s crew member, Jessie Martinez.

“These latest revelations are blowing a hole in the Australian government’s pretence that it is managing Australian shipping in a safe and responsible manner. That particular claim is now taking on water and about to sink without trace,” Smith said.

“Coming on top of the scandalous recent cases of the CSL Melbourne and the MV Portland, these new exposés paint a deeply worrying picture of a dysfunctional and indefensible policy that goes right to the top of the Australian government,” she added.

The crews aboard bulk carriers CSL Melbourne and MV Portland were removed from their vessels after the vessels’ owners decided to outsource their work to a flag of convenience vessel crewed by a cheaper workforce.

ITF President Paddy Crumlin had criticized the conservative Australian government’s moves aimed at the removal of cabotage, or rules which encourage investment in the local industry.

He said, “Flag-of-convenience shipping is riddled with morally ambiguous, and sometimes criminal, practices yet the Australian government wants to make ships of shame the new normal rather than the extreme exception.

“The removal of cabotage would weaken labour and safety standards and threaten thousands of domestic jobs in Australia’s maritime sector.”

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