Death Ship Captain Back in Australia
The former captain of the Sage Sagittarius has returned to Australia on board the bulk carrier Kypros Sea.
Filipino Venancio Salas Jr was master of the Sage Sagittarius when two men died under mysterious circumstances in 2012.
The 225-meter (740-foot) Kypros Sea arrived in the Australian port of Gladstone on Monday morning after leaving Brazil in June.
The arrival of the vessel into Australian waters coincides with a Senate inquiry into the risks of so called flag of convenience vessels that was prompted in large part by the fatalities on board the Sage Sagittarius.
The inquiry heard allegations that Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection had Salas on a watch list at the time.
Local media report that a confidential Customs document dated September 5, 2012, lists Salas in a table marked PACE and Immigration Alerts. PACE stands for Passenger Analysis, Clearance and Evaluation. Three other crew members appear on the same list.
The document is dated is five days after the cook Cesar Llanto disappeared from the Sage Sagittarius and nine days before the chief engineer suffered a fatal fall.
Salas’ return to Australia also coincides with the resumption of a coronial inquest into the two Sage Sagittarius fatalities in Sydney. The inquest was launched in 2015.
Llanto, 42, was one of three men from the Sage Sagittarius to die in a six weeks between August and October 2012. Llanto disappeared overboard as the vessel approached Australian waters northeast of Cairns.
The chief engineer Hector Collado, 57, died as a result of an 11-meter (36 foot) fall on board the bulk carrier. The third death, that of Japanese superintendent Kosaku Monji, who was crushed to death on a conveyor belt, occurred when the ship later docked in Japan.
Last year, the inquest heard that Salas was like a big brother to galley worker Jessie Martinez. However it has been alleged that Salas regularly bullied Martinez. On one occasion, he allegedly punched him so hard he struggled for breath for days afterwards.
Salas also admitted to slapping Martinez on the bottom at one of the ship’s weekly parties where alcohol was consumed. 9News reports Salas as saying: “I saw him dancing inappropriately ... like a girly ... like a woman in a burlesque,” he said. “It is very degrading to him already, and I told him to stop, and if you don't stop I will slap you with a slipper.”
The captain also admitted to selling guns to crew members and taking a commission. Most of the crew members on board were armed. ABC News reports that, when pressed, Salas admitted to collecting the gun brochures and permits from the crew before the Sage Sagittarius docked in Newcastle to prevent the Australian Federal Police from finding them.
The inquest heard that Llanto, chief cook on board Sage Sagittarius, may have been involved in a plan to report Salas to the International Transport Workers’ Federation on arrival in Australia.
The same day that he disappeared overboard, Salas ordered Martinez to delete a statement of complaint from Llanto’s computer as it would have resulted in the ship being detained at Newcastle port. Salas denied he was angry with Llanto and denied he had anything to do with his disappearance but said he believed the man may have been murdered.