Murder investigation didn't stop Death Ship captain's visa

News Corp Australia

AN ABUSIVE ship captain linked by a Coroner's report to two deaths aboard his former ship, was granted permission to work in local waters less than 12 months after Australian Federal Police launched a homicide investigation.

The deaths aboard the Sage Sagittarius or "Death Ship" have captured international attention since a chief cook vanished overboard in August 2012

Just two weeks later, the ship's chief engineer would tumble 11m to his death after suffering a mysterious blow to the skull.


A Senate Inquiry investigating foreign shipping has tabled its final report, which includes a focus on the Sagittarius deaths.

It unearths new information showing that Captain Venancio Salas Jr was given a green light to work in Australia for three years on July 19, 2013 by Customs.

That is less than 12 months after the first death on board his ship, which was being treated as a "suspected murder" by the AFP.

Customs had its own "alert" on Capt Salas, according to confidential documents from September 2012.

While AFP scoured the world for witnesses and evidence, Capt Salas was able to sail into Australian waters aboard a new vessel.

In February 2016, he was discovered in Gladstone by News Corp Australia, which prompted the AFP and NSW Police to deliver a subpoena and force him to face the coronial inquest in Sydney.

The AFP investigation, along with the inquest, would later suggest the cook and engineer died of "foul play".

It found Capt Salas himself "caused or authorised" the disappearance of the cook, or at least knew more than he would let on.

NSW Deputy Coroner Sharon Freund also said that whoever killed the cook, almost certainly killed the engineer in the weeks that followed.

Capt Salas has consistently denied any involvement in the deaths.

The Senate Inquiry's report found it was "unacceptable that seafarers are disappearing and dying in Australian waters and that no one is held to account for these events".

"The case of the MV Sage Sagittarius highlighted how (foreign) vessels can operate with a workplace environment of bullying and harassment, with tragic results."

The inquiry recommended the Federal Government create "clear guidelines and procedures" on how to respond to deaths aboard ships in Australian waters.

It also questioned how the Department of Border Protection was unable to deliver Capt Salas, when a journalist could.

The Senate Inquiry report also targets the plight of foreign seafarers who are paid about AUD$770 a month in a role vulnerable to abuse.

It found 38% of seafarers have witnessed a "serious injury or fatality" involving a crew member.

An earlier report from the inquiry had each one of its recommendations either rejected or "noted" by the Federal Government.