A coal carrier already under investigation by Australian authorities for the deaths of two Filipino workers has attracted fresh scrutiny related to its seaworthiness in Australian waters.
Visits on the Japanese coal Carrier Sage Sagittarius in early October this year by the International Transport Federation (ITF) revealed safety equipment and switches that were in bad repair or inoperable.
ITF Australia co-ordinator Dean Summers said he has been aboard the vessel several times, once with the NSW coroner to investigate three suspicious deaths.
“While we were there I couldn’t help but see a whole lot of safety equipment rusted up and over,” he said.
Summers said the self-discharging ship can offload cargo without the use of shore-based cranes, but the safety cut-off switches which control the on-board loading machinery were rusted over completely, preventing their operation in the event of an emergency.
Lifesaving RFDs, or lifeboats also did not appear to have functional switches for automatic deployment in a capsizing event.
“It just looked pretty tatty to me,” Summers said.
“I have notified the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, who I expect will do a full inspection of the ship,” he said.
Summers said that during the visit he was gagged by the ship’s owners, and was not able to make such observations while on board.
Three “suspicious” deaths have occurred on the ship since August 30 2012, when cook Cesar Llanto vanished overboard about 800km north of Cairns.
Fifteen days later chief engineer Hector Collado, a maritime worker of 30 years experience, fell 10 metres to his death while the ship docked at Newcastle.
Another 22 days later a worker named Monji was crushed to death by conveyor machinery while in Japanese waters.
Summers said that the maritime transport aspect of the mining industry was one which did not receive enough attention from mining companies or awareness of the general public.
“Unfortunately the mining industry takes very little responsibility for cargos once they are at the wharf,” he said.
“The bulk [handling] part of the shipping industry is most prone to violations of seafarers rights particularly in time of high demand for shipping.
“The shipping industry is all but invisible until we have a major environmental incident, but as we have seen on the Sage a likely triple murder on a coal ship would have gone unnoticed, uninvestigated or at best underinvestigated had we not protested in the press.”
Image: Daily Mercury