||Issue No. 328||13 October 2006|
Interview: Australia’s Most Wanted
Industrial: The Fox and the Contractor
Unions: Industrial Wasteland
International: Two Bob's Worth
Economics: National Interest
Environment: The Real Dinosaur
History: Only In Spain?
Review: Clerk Off
The Unpromised Land
Giant Catastrophe for Crew
Australian unions are joining the International Transport Workers Federation in calling on a full investigation into the sinking of the Panamian-registered Giant Step.
The ship - crewed by Indian nationals - was carrying 190,000 tonnes of iron ore to the Japanese port of Kashima when it sank. Fifteen crew members were rescued and of 10 others missing, three bodies have been found.
The International Ship and Port Security Code provides that under the international convention all crew must have access to visitors, shore leave and welfare providers.
But private ports like Port Walcott - operated by Pilbara Iron, majority owned by Rio Tinto - are barring welfare checks of crews, said Australian Workers Union national secretary Bill Shorten.
"As a country, we bear a responsibility to ensure seafarers who are transporting Australian goods around the world are working in safe conditions," Shorten said.
Pilbara Iron doesn't allow ITF welfare officers access to crews arriving at Port Walcott, said ITF Australian co-ordinator Dean Summers.
"The ITF have long held concerns for the welfare of crews in isolated ports who are a vital link in getting Australia's products to international markets," said Summers.
"When was this 21-year-old ship last checked by port state control to ensure it was sea worthy?"
The owners of Giant Step, the international shipping company MOL Line, has lost three ships in the past few months suggesting its vessels suffered serious safety problems, Summers.
"We are calling for a full investigation of what happened on this ship from the time it was loaded in Western Australia. The process of loading of 190,000 tonnes of rock is very important, to ensure it doesn't place to much strain on the ship."
Crew members from developing countries were being treated as expedient commodities, free of any support when they come into a privately-owned port, said Paddy Crumlin, national secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia.
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