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UPDATE: Inspectors allowed to board Cement Australia ship

UPDATE: 

CEMENT Australia helped inspectors gain access to the Unity today when it docked in Brisbane. 

International Transport Workers' Federation National Coordinator Dean Summers said the conditions appeared to be acceptable and the captain was cooperative with the inspector.

Now the Federation says it's working with Greek owners Cosmos to establish an agreement for the workers.

"That will legally bind the company to adhere to international standards," Mr Summers said.

Mr Summers hopes to have the agreement finalised within the next few days.

EARLIER:     

INSPECTORS claim they were denied access to a ship loaded with cargo from Cement Australia.

The International Transport Workers' Federation tried to board the ship yesterday when it was docked in Gladstone only to be told the crew was "too busy".

This vessel, Unity, has caught the Federation's attention because the Greek owned bulk carrier, sailing under a Panama flag, hasn't left Australian waters for at least the past month.

Federation National Coordinator Dean Summers is concerned this ship is regularly trading within Australia, but because it isn't registered here sailors aren't getting Australian minimum wages.

Mr Summers is determined to have an inspector board the ship when it docks in Brisbane on Thursday.

"We won't be dissuaded from our duties," Mr Summers said.

"We will get on board and find out what's going on."

Cement Australia and the Greek owners Cosmos are still to return our phone calls. The shipping agent managing the Unity in Gladstone, Ironmonger Shipping Agencies, refused to comment.

The International Transport Workers' Federation union regularly inspects ships to ensure conditions for the crew on board meet Australian standards.

Senate inquiry into Australian shipping

UNITY is what's referred to as a 'flag of convenience' ship.

Although it's owned by Greek company Cosmos, it flies the flag of Panama, an arrangement which can enable companies to avoid adhering workplace regulations.

Last year the Federal Government launched a senate inquiry into the use of 'flag of convenience' ships --- known in the industry as the cheap option --- after three deaths on a Japanese owned ship The Sage Sagittarius hauling coal between Australia and Japan.

The senate report is due to be handed down next month.

There were 24 submissions including from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection which says the use of 'flag of convenience' ships are more attractive for use in illegal activities.

The submission also states that these ships, with complex financial and ownership arrangements can be shrouded in secrecy making it difficult to hold anyone to account for injuries and deaths on board.

Department of Immigration and Border Protection submission summary;

"The regulatory, registration and compliance practices of the so-called FOC states have the potential to create vulnerabilities for Australia's enforcement of laws in its maritime domain.

These vulnerabilities add to the attractiveness of FOC shipping to entities such as organised crime syndicates and other entities seeking to illegally exploit natural resources both within and outside the AEEZ."

The senate inquiry also follows a move from the Federal Government to deregulate the Australian shipping leading to fears from those in the industry that Australian jobs would be lost and labour standards weakened.

Read the full submissions to the senate inquiry.

Topics:  cement australia, flag of convenience, gladstone




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