Melbourne Tanker Stand Off is Over
After three weeks, the crew of the tanker Tandara Spirit have ended their rebellion after being threatened with legal action. They had refused to sail the vessel from Melbourne, Australia, to Singapore where they would be made redundant, replaced by a tanker crewed by Vietnamese sailors.
In an open letter, the ship's crew said: “We are ordinary working people. We are not political activists. We just want to do our jobs in Australian waters.”
Crewman Kevin Millar said the possible millions of dollars that the companies could chase them for, personally, for standing up for their rights, for their jobs, was just too much in the end.
“We have always worked hard. We have always been on time or before time, we get things done. The ship always looks immaculate, and myself I'm disappointed that the company does not recognize or respect the hard work that the Australian seafarers do,” Millar told local media.
Viva Energy has released a statement saying that it would hire Australian crewed vessels in the future if they were available, as required by law. The company says the need to transport fuel from the Geelong Refinery by ship has diminished. “If Viva Energy needs to charter a vessel from Geelong Refinery, it will be on a spot charter basis.
“Under this process, the company must abide by the regulations under the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act 2012, which includes an obligation to hire an Australian crewed vessel if suitable and available.”
With Viva’s removal of the Tandara Spirit, there are now only four Maritime Union of Australia (MUA)-crewed tankers that operate domestically, says the MUA, and BP is also considering removing the Australian crew from the British Loyalty in mid-2015.
MUA assistant national secretary Warren Smith said: “We’re seeing more and more Australian jobs being taken offshore – whether it’s shipping or manufacturing.
“The workers onboard the Tandara Spirit are worried about their jobs and their future. They have mortgages to pay off, kids to feed and the threat of personal legal action and potentially losing not just their jobs but their assets as well is why they’ve decided to sail today.
“There are more than 500 seafarers currently out of work so the chances of picking up another job are low. Seafarers working this vessel have been at sea for 20, 30, 40 years and it’s a disgrace that Vitol/Viva want to replace us with workers earning $20 a day.”
According to the MUA, Vitol and Viva appear to be chartering ships of a poor standard into the Geelong refinery to replace the Tandara Spirit, including three ships that have been detained at least once and a Vietnamese ship with crew paid less than $2 per hour.
MUA assistant national secretary Ian Bray said: “The fact that the Vinalines Galaxy was chartered to do the coastal run from Geelong to Adelaide proves there is work for the Tandara Spirit. We’re using and importing more fuel and it needs to move around the coast - why not get Australian crews to do it?
“With Australia importing so much of its fuel, what happens if there’s a terrorist attack? Why shouldn’t we continue to run refineries and Australian-crewed vessels as an insurance policy against any interruption in the global supply chain?
“Australia only has about three weeks’ worth of fuel supplies – I don’t think the community is aware of that. This leaves us exposed to terrorist attack and market forces – what will motorists say if there are price hikes out of Singapore or in the spot price for renting ships as a one-off?”