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Stena Clyde Tragedy: Continued Govt Inaction

Posted by Mr Sam Kelly on August 28, 2015 at 2:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Today is the three year anniversary of the tragedy which cost Peter Meddens and Barry Denholm their lives on the Stena Clyde oil rig in the Bass Strait off the coast of Victoria.


The matter has only just reached the Courts with a hearing taking place in Melbourne yesterday. There is no outcome at this time.


Unions are aghast at the length of time it has taken to reach this point and can’t understand why it has taken so long for the case to reach the courts.


The delays and astounding lack of information by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environment Management Authority (NOPSEMA) must act as an impetus for change; the Federal Government must replace NOPSEMA with an independent and full service regulator.


Delays such as those which occur under NOPSEMA – who lack the power to prosecute - cause great anguish to the family, friends and work mates of the victims.


Furthermore the lack of explanation means the safety issue isn’t dealt with in a timely manner and puts other workers at unacceptable risk.


There are safety standards that cover all other Australian workers under Occupational Health and Safety laws – yet offshore workers are denied these important protections.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick:


“The families, friends and work mates of Peter Meddens and Barry Denholm have been waiting a long time to find out what happened to their loved ones on that terrible day in 2012.”


“We are calling for Federal Government to overhaul NOPSEMA and replace it with a full service regulator who can act quickly to prosecute to ensure the reasons behind an accident are identified without this extraordinary delay.”


“The ACTU is also concerned NOPSEMA is too close to the industry to act as an effective regulator.”


“Without a full and independent investigation into such tragedies we cannot ensure other workers will not be exposed to similar dangers.”


“Offshore safety legislation must be brought into line with national OHS standards – there is no justification for lower standards of protections for offshore workers.”


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High Court To Hear Case Over Abbott???s Royal Visas For Cheap Foreign Workers

Posted by Mr Sam Kelly on August 19, 2015 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (0)

The High Court today agreed to hear the case involving the Abbott Government’s use of visas for cheap foreign labour in the offshore oil and gas sector that are normally reserved for royal guests and overseas dignitaries.


In a hearing in Sydney, Her Honour Justice Bell accepted the argument that the case is important and therefore should be kept in the High Court.

‘In light of the importance of the matter the court will not be remitting the case to the Federal Court,’ Justice Bell told the hearing.

Thousands of Australian jobs in the offshore oil and gas sector are being threatened by the Federal Government’s sneaky means of issuing Special Purpose Visas to cheap overseas labourers.

Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash has used Ministerial discretion to issue the visas, usually reserved for top dignitaries including the royal family and military attaches.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU) have taken the Federal Government to the High Court to challenge the use of the visas.

MUA Deputy National Secretary Will Tracey said Justice Bell had outlined a further directions hearing in Canberra in seven weeks time ahead of a trial anticipated to take place early next year.

“A similar case has already been heard by the full Federal Court and the MUA thinks the High Court is the appropriate jurisdiction,” Mr Tracey said.

“Justice Bell’s acceptance of the MUA’s argument for the case to be heard in the High Court is an important first step.

“The Abbott Government has already been defeated in the Senate and the full Federal Court and it simply beggars belief that they continue to try to deny Australian workers the capacity to work in their own country.

“These Special Purpose Visas have always been NON-WORK visas simply for visiting dignitaries.

“To use them in this underhand way as work visas in the offshore oil and gas industry again displays the Abbott Government’s contempt for hardworking Australians doing the heavy lifting in the country’s lucrative resources sector.

“Yet these hugely profitable companies are looking to import cheap workers, who don’t have to pay tax in Australia and with no security checks or Australian-approved skill sets.”

The Abbott Government has taken four significant steps to undermine Australian participation in offshore oil and gas projects. It has:

• Introduced a Bill to repeal the Migration Amendment (Offshore Resources Activity) Act 2013 (ORA ACT) that was passed by the Parliament in 2013 to address a flaw in Australia's migration law. The introduction of the ORA followed a Federal Court judgment in the Allseas case that found certain groups of workers were not within the migration zone and did not require visas to work in Australia.

• Introduced a Regulation under the ORA Act that specified an inappropriate visa class as a work visa to conform with the ORA Act (the Maritime Crew Visa, which is a transit visa for visiting international seafarers, not a work visa). This was disallowed by the Senate;

• Following the disallowance, within 24 hours introduced a Ministerial Determination ('Immi 14/077') effectively making the ORA Act null and void in complete disregard to the wishes of the Parliament. The MUA and AMOU successfully appealed the decision to the Full Court of the Federal Court.

• Following the Full Federal Court decision, within 24 hours introduced another determination (‘Immi 15/073’) to again allow cheap foreign labour in the offshore oil and gas sector. The MUA and AMOU are currently pursuing this in the High Court.

Yet Senator Cash had the temerity this week to say criticism of the Abbott Government was based on personalities.

"You may not like us as individuals, I can accept that. But look at the policies, look at our achievements." Senator Michaelia Cash - Sky News 18/8/2015

“This isn’t about personalities; it’s about rotten policies from the Abbott Government,” Mr Tracey said.

“Unemployment is over 800,000 for the first time in 20 years and rather than address the jobs crisis, Senator Cash wants to sell out Australian jobs on behalf of her mates in big oil and gas companies.

“It’s about time Senator Cash and the Prime Minister stood up for Australian jobs and Australian workers.”


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Hapag-Lloyd may join Hanjin in bypassing Portland over labor dispute

Posted by Captain Jack Sparrow on July 1, 2012 at 9:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Port of Portland officials said they expect German shipping company Hapag-Lloyd to also stop calling on Portland’s lone container terminal until a labor dispute is resolved. Hapag-Lloyd officials didn’t return several calls to its Seattle and New Jersey offices seeking comment. If true, it would mean that Portland would lose service from both of the major carriers that call on the port weekly. South Korean carrier Hanjin announced earlier Thursday that it would cease calling on the port’s Terminal 6.

Port officials have yet to get official word from Hapag-Lloyd like they did with Hanjin, which issued a notification to customers Thursday, said port spokesman Josh Thomas. Bill Wyatt, the port’s executive director, earlier this week said Hanjin handles 2,000 containers per week while Hapag-Lloyd handles around 500. The port also has yet to hear from Puyallup, Wash.-based Westwood Shipping Lines , which calls on the port monthly. Westwood officials also could not be reached for comment. The source of the trouble is a contentious dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and terminal operator ICTSI Oregon Inc. over what union should have the rights to the two- to four-person-per-year job of plugging and unplugging refrigerated containers at the terminal.

ICTSI contends that it’s bound by a terminal management lease with the Port of Portland that requires the work be done by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. . The longshore union believes that ICTSI, as a member of the Pacific Maritime Association , is bound by a labor pact with the PMA dictating that the work goes to the ILWU. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon will hold a hearing in Portland Friday afternoon on a pair of lawsuits related to the dispute. That includes a claim filed by the Seattle-based regional director of the National Labor Relations Board claiming the longshore union has been intentionally disrupting operations at T6. Source: Portland Business Journal

Free ride ferries to cost $6 million

Posted by Captain Jack Sparrow on July 1, 2012 at 9:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Some of Brisbane's single hull inner-city ferries will be renamed 'City Hoppers' and run free of charge from July 1, yesterday's Brisbane City Council budget revealed. Lord mayor Graham Quirk, who flagged the program during the April election campaign, said the City Hoppers were geared towards tourist visiting Brisbane.

"That's the three mono-hull ferries that will run up and down the river and I think it will be a welcome addition to the city," he said. "Again it will show we are a friendly city to tourists." The 2012-13 budget allocated $200,000, which would largely let the three ferries be painted red and re-branded as City Hopper services.

Overall the move will cost the council $6 million over four years from its $34.7 million budget for ferry operating costs.

Other public transport announcements in the budget included a new CityCat terminal at Milton ($5 million over four years) and a new "Maroon" CityGlider ($9 million over four years), linking Paddington and Stones Corner. The council has also set aside $1.4 million for its proposed cross-river bus link to tackle congestion on the Victoria Bridge. In December 2011, Cr Quirk put forward an option for a "Suburbs 2 City" bus link after highlighted major problems with buses banking up over the Victoria Bridge.

Cr Quirk in December proposed a 3.6 kilometre bus-only link between South Bank and Fortitude Valley, comprising two sections; a new bus-only link from Melbourne Street across the river to Adelaide Street. It would run over the Riverside Expressway, under Adelaide Street, link to the existing busway network and come back to the on-street level at the intersection of Wickham and Ann Streets. The feasibility study will take about 18 months to complete. Funding will be requested from state and federal governments once a proposal concept firms. Source : Brisbane Times

Lucy Lawless pleads guilty to trespassing on oil-drilling ship

Posted by Captain Jack Sparrow on June 18, 2012 at 2:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Actress Lucy Lawless pleaded guilty Thursday (June 14) to trespassing on an oil-drilling ship that was leaving a New Zealand port back in February. She and other Greenpeace members were trying to keep the ship from heading out to sea, reports the AP. Lawless will be sentenced in September and faces a maximum of three years in jail after she and five other environmental activists spent four days perched atop a 174-foot drilling tower on the Noble Discoverer in a protect against Arctic oil exploration. "Yeah, I think we've helped kick off a great movement. We want to tell [deep-sea oil drillers] absolutely under no circumstances is this a good idea. They are robbing our children of their birthright to a clean and healthy planet, and they know it," Lawless tells the New Zealand Herald.

Australia: Committee recommends shipping reforms

Posted by Captain Jack Sparrow on June 18, 2012 at 2:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Labor's shipping reforms. The committee, which examined a suite of bills aimed at revitalising Australia's shipping industry, said a proposed review in five years' time was insufficient. Instead, it said a monitoring unit should be set up within the Productivity Commission, the federal transport department, or the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics. "The unit should report regularly, at a minimum annually, to government," the committee said in its report released on Friday. However, it also said the package of bills, which have already passed the lower house, should be approved by the Senate. Coalition senators on the committee published a dissenting report, saying the bills shouldn't be passed. They believe industry concerns have not been adequately addressed and the changes will not stem the decline of Australian shipping. Source: AAP

SMIT Strike in Gladstone

Posted by Captain Jack Sparrow on June 18, 2012 at 2:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Workers for SMIT Marine Australia, which provides pilot and towing services to coal ships at Gladstone port in Australia, have voted in favor of industrial action, though unions have yet to notify the company of any pending strikes, a spokesman for SMIT Marine said Friday.

The maritime services company has been in talks with its employees who belong to three trades unions representing ships' masters, engineers and general maritime workers over the details of a new collective workplace agreement since October last year. "At this stage, we are still in negotiations with the unions. We cannot say anything about the process and at this stage we have not received any notification of industrial action," SMIT Marine Australia general manager, Frederik Rutgers said Friday.

SMIT Marine provides a range of maritime services at Gladstone port including tugs for towing vessels into port to load coal exports, according to Rutgers.

The three unions are understood to have lodged a claim with SMIT Marine for a 37.5% pay rise for the company's tug masters and engineers followed by an annual pay increase of 8%, according to market sources. Members of the three trade unions involved in the dispute, the Australian Maritime Officers' Union representing ships' masters, Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers, Maritime Union of Australia voted by a considerable margin for industrial action lasting for up to seven days at a time, according to the website of Fair Work Australia. SMIT employees belonging to the MUA voted by 14 to zero for work stoppages lasting for up to 24 hours, and all four AMOU affiliated employees were in favor of strikes lasting for up to seven days. While AIMPE members voted 11-3 for work stoppages lasting 24 hours and seven days, according to the results of the votes on FWA's website on June 13.

Gladstone Ports Corporation said through a spokeswoman Friday that the port authority had not been advised of any industrial action by employees of SMIT Marine at this point in time. "Our intent would be for Gladstone Ports Corp. to schedule around the action if it arises to minimize any impacts," said the port authority's spokeswoman in an emailed response to questions. Gladstone port ships thermal and coking coal for a number of companies with mines in the Bowen Basin coal field in central Queensland including, BHP Billiton (Blackwater), Cockatoo Coal (Baralaba), Jellinbah Group, Wesfarmers (Curragh), Xstrata (Rolleston) and Yancoal (Yarrabee). The Queensland port loaded 54.6 million mt of coal for export onto 610 vessels in the 11-month period ended May 2012, according to information on GPC's website. Source: Platts

Maersk discontinues Oz-NZ service, opts for slots with MSC-ANL

Posted by Captain Jack Sparrow on June 1, 2012 at 6:50 AM Comments comments (1)

MAERSK Line will end its Tasman Star Express service and instead buy slots from MSC-ANL's Trans Tasman Service, reports Alphaliner. The MSC-ANL loop links Australia's Sydney and Melbourne to New Zealands' Nelson, Auckland, Tauranga, Lyttelton and Wellington, using three 2,600 to 2,800-TEUers. Maersk's current Tasman Star Express had three 1,100-TEUers and called at Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Wellington, Lyttelton, Nelson, Tauranga, Sydney. Source : Schednet

Australian Shipping Reform Passed Today

Posted by Mr Sam Kelly on May 31, 2012 at 9:35 AM Comments comments (2)

The suite of Bills that represent the Government's Shipping Reform Package have passed the House of Representatives.

Following an impassioned speech in support from Minister Anthony Albanese, and other Labor members Jill Hall, Sharon Grierson, Melissa Parke, Deb O'Neill, Tony Zappia, Richard Marles and Independant Bob Katter, Shipping Reform passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 71 - 69.

As the Minister said in his speech: "When this mob [the Liberals] took over in 1996 we had 55 Australian vessels, now we have less than half. Either we do this today and get it done, or the Australian shipping industry is done. Without reform the Australian shipping industry will disappear "

All of the speakers made mention of the hard work of the MUA - its National Secretary Paddy Crumlin and all the members involved.

The Bills represent over 10 years of work by the MUA, especially National Secretary Paddy Crumlin, and follows the endorsed support from members at the recent Seafarers Conference and National MUA Conference.

A delegation of seafaring members joined National Secretary Paddy Crumlin, National Policy Officer Rod Pickette and National Communications Director Darrin Barnett in Canberra to see the Bills pass (pictured).

Mr Crumlin said this was the biggest reform of the Navigation Act in 100 years.

"What Australia has effectively done is has shown the way in international shipping, demonstrating that FOC shipping can be defeated and that all seafarers - particularly those from developed countires - have a right to work in the industry.

"Cabotage is back on the menu for seafarers worldwide.

"The support of the ITF was also critical to the political will to enact these wide-ranging and internationally important reforms, and the ITF is enshrined in this legislation," said Mr Crumlin.

Over the last month the core team has been working 24-7 to make sure the legislation was complete and presentable, and that there were sufficient votes the lower house.

This was not guaranteed until right before the Bills were passed.

"We knew we had to make sure that Shipping Reform was not just a good piece of legislation, but one that would be passed the Parliament," said Mr Crumlin.

"As a union, we've fended off the campaign by conservative shippers, foreign ship-owners and the federal Opposition to destroy the Act and the industry.

"It's an emotional day. We've been working on this since the election of the Howard Government. They destroyed Government support for the Australian shipping industry in their first weeks in office back in 1996.

"The union generally and myself personally have been at the forefront of the campaign to ensure that shipping and Australian seafarers have a future in this country," said Mr Crumlin.

"It signals the end of the 17 year war and the beginning of a new era of post-war construction.

"The work of Minister Albanese cannot be overstated. As maritime workers have said, he deserves the Order of Elliott Healy (EOH) named after Elliott V. Elliot and Jim Healy, the legendary leaders of the Seaman's Union and Waterside Workers Federation.

"No one has done more to deliver these reforms than Minister Albanese."

Today the MUA congratulates and thanks the Labor Party for delivering for Australian maritime workers.

The Prime Minister Julia Gillard committed to the legislation when she addressed the 2008 National Conference a few weeks after the Rudd Government was elected.
 Today, they have delivered on their promise and have been supported by the Independents and the Greens, without whom this legislation wouldn't have passed.

The Greens and Independents understood the issues and voted for the legislation on its merits - further isolating the intellectual paucity and of the Federal Opposition, ignobly led by Nationals Leader Warren Truss, whose speech in Parliament against the Bill was as fallacious as it was uninspiring. In fact, he spoke against his own Party's policy.

The Labor Party also identified the capacity to secure work opportunities for Pacific and Regional seafarers - a policy commitment that the MUA has had in place for many years. This Bill updates the Navigation Act and puts it in the context of international best practice.

The Reforms will create employment, sustain business opportunities and productivity and build the national interest through an industry that has always been and always will be critical to the quality of Australia's economy, environment and way of life.


Move to compel ships plying local ports to fly South African flag

Posted by Mr Sam Kelly on May 28, 2012 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)

The government is considering the introduction of a policy to compel ships to be registered in SA before they are allowed to move goods between the country’s ports a policy regarded by the shipping industry as protectionist and restrictive.

Cabotage, as this practice is called, is one of the levers the Department of Transport is considering to include in a new policy framework for the maritime sector, the department’s director-general, George Mahlalela, said yesterday.

About 12000 foreign-owned, deep-sea trading vessels regularly call at SA’s ports every year and carry about 98% of the country’s internationally bound cargo.

In 2008, the African Union adopted the African Maritime Transport Charter aimed at promoting local shipping in Africa.

It identified cabotage "as one way of promoting local shipping activity", Mr Mahlalela said. SA, Ethiopia and Egypt have started developing policies to meet the goals of the charter.

The Department of Transport is eager to attract ships to its registry in the hope it will stimulate and attract maritime services and supporting industries to invest in SA.

SA no longer has any ships registered under its flag after Safmarine’s Oranje deregistered in January last year.

The loss of tonnage had led to a loss of skills, Mr Mahlalela said. SA’s ship repair and shipbuilding industries were no longer able to offer maintenance and the advanced services shipping lines required.

The biggest reason for the loss of tonnage is SA’s unattractive tax regime. Shipping world leader Singapore uses a tonnage tax that taxes shipping activities at fixed rates according to the size of the ships instead of the company’s operating performance. In SA, shipping companies would be required to pay tax of about 39% — the combined effective tax rate of company and dividend taxes.

Andrew Thomas, CEO of Ocean Africa Container Lines, which offers regional services, said any form of protectionism in the maritime sector would not be positive.

"We don’t think it’s the way to go. We don’t recommend any form of restrictive practice," he said.

"If we wish to create a maritime sector in terms of ship register, we need to focus on being competitive on a global basis. Shipping is a global business."

Mr Thomas said the tax regime, labour policies, work permits and institutional bureaucracy made the maritime sector in SA unattractive.

At any given time, there were between 1700 and 1900 ships off SA’s coast, Mr Mahlalela said.

While billions of rand are spent annually on maintaining SA’s economic exclusion zone, the country was deriving very little benefit from the traffic off the coast.

According to a sector review compiled by the South African Maritime Safety Authority ahead of a conference it will host in Cape Town next month, this represents an opportunity cost to SA.

About R36bn is paid annually for shipping services but this "only accrues to foreign owners and operators", the review says.

Mr Mahlalela conceded the idea of coercing companies to register ships in SA did not enjoy support from "certain parts of the sector".

"Some of our trade institutions are not happy about it, but we are not saying we have finalised. It is part of the conversation we are having on maritime development," he said.

The European Union, Canada, the US, Japan and New Zealand have cabotage rules to protect their shipping industries.

Source: Business Day