Australia: Bulker Caught in Potentially Fatal Safety Breach

The UK-flagged freighter Sadlers Wells is reported to had committed a safety breach while sailing in the Australian waters by unleashing the ship’s cargo at sea.

“On Tuesday, a crew aboard foreign freighter, Sadlers Wells, unlashed the ship’s cargo at sea compromising their own lives and the stability of the vessel, in contravention of both international and domestic laws,” the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) said.

The ITF believes that the cargo consisted of rail carriages, which would have sunk the ship if they shifted.

The breach was reported to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

ITF National Coordinator Dean Summers said he was calling on AMSA to come down hard on the ship’s management and detain the vessel until a full investigation into the event could be performed.

“AMSA should prosecute whoever is responsible for this reckless breach of safety,” Summers said.

However, based on the latest vessel tracking data, the 2015-built ship, managed by Asiaworld Shipping Services, left Fremantle this morning and is headed for Singapore.

According to Summers, there is a growing number of dodgy shipping practices as more and more foreign vessels visit the Australian coast.

“The International Transport Workers’ Federation is calling on the Federal Government to tighten shipping regulation, rather than strip it back after a potentially fatal safety breach was found to have taken place aboard a foreign ship in Australian waters, outside of Fremantle,” ITF said.

The call comes in the wake of Australian Government’s announcement on reform of its coastal shipping, which , according to  ITF, will serve as free pass for  foreign vessels as they “flout laws and safety regulations because they can”.

“Well a complete free-for-all will be a disaster and it won’t be long until a ship like the Sadlers Wells is involved in a disaster with loss of life, or massive environmental destruction in the form of an oil, or chemical spill,” he warned.

Due to safety and environmental reasons, Australian law requires that the loading and unloading of vessels is undertaken by trained stevedores, with appropriate licenses and safety standards, once the vessel is safely in port as per Section 94 of the Navigation Act. Unlashing at sea is also prohibited by the international convention – Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).

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