Crewman airlifted from ‘Death Ship’

A Filipino crew member was airlifted from the so called ‘Death Ship’ Sage Sagittarius, attracting more public attention during the coronial inquest into suspicious deaths aboard the vessel.

The Newcastle Herald reported that Westpac Rescue Helicopter landed on the coal carrier at 11:50am on Monday and transported a man in his 30s, believed to be suffering from abdominal pain, to John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle.

It is understood the man was diagnosed with appendicitis.

A coronial inquest is currently underway to examine suspicious deaths which occurred on the vessel, which has heightened public awareness of the case, as well as broader issues for maritime workers and operators.

International Transport Federation Co-ordinator Dean Summers said he received a call from a community member on Monday about the arrival of a rescue helicopter on the vessel.

“It shows that all eyes are on the Sage Sagittarius, and so they should be,” Summers said.

“We’ve had a great response from everybody in the community, saying they’re surprised that these sort of things can happen,” he said.

“No one really knows what happens aboard ships, and the level of concern from the community that these sorts of things are going on at sea is good for us.

Summers said the broad public interest generated around the inquest, together with a push by the ITF for an inquiry, would have resonance in the Senate.

“We are getting some traction on getting the Senate’s attention on my request for an inquiry into the matter,” he said.

Summers said another witness was due to give evidence in the next two days, but was uncertain whether the witness was likely to follow through.

 “After three deaths, there aren’t too many people who would want to be the fourth,” he said.;

“There’s so much secrecy, there are so many unanswered questions, and the coronial inquest has just asked more questions, it hasn’t resolved very much, even though the captain has been on the stand for a number of hours.

 “I think the coroner has done a very good job, under the circumstances, which are hindered in that there aren’t too many people who want to put their hand up to come and give evidence,” he said.

Summers said the case would give cause to examine the shipping industry in Australia, in particular low-cost international operators.

“I’m very happy that at least this has shone a light into darkest crevices of the Flag of Convenience system, but also that the community is becoming aware, so we can have a Senate inquiry into the high cost of cheap shipping,” he said.

Summers said the recent policy push by the Abbott government to deregulate shipping in Australia to achieve lower domestic transport costs would have to consider the potential for adverse impact on conditions.

“An inquiry into Flag of Convenience shipping would have to be included in proposals to change the legislation,” he said.

“If the Australian coast is completely deregulated the only ships that will replace Australian ships in the cabotage run are Flag of Convenience ships.”

“We need to know what that will mean for our environment, for our fuel security…and for our national security.”

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