Government undermines Australian shipping
by Bob Briton A former Australian National Line vessel which was sold off by the now privatised shipping line is carrying out bulk trade between Queensland and South Australia using "guest labour" at "third world" rates of pay. The vessel previously known as the "River Torrens" was designed specifically for the local trade in cement/clinker between the two States for Adelaide Brighton Cement. The self-discharging vessel was introduced after concessions from the Waterside Workers' Federation (WWF) at the time. The design virtually eliminated stevedoring but its introduction was accepted by the WWF so as to make Australian flag shipping more viable. Unions also had to accept the paying out of crews when the vessel was sold and taken overseas for dry-docking. An agreement was entered into by all parties that the vessel would not return to service in Australian waters. The Canadian Steamship Lines (CSL) have, however, recently reintroduced it into exactly the same trade between Adelaide and Brisbane. The vessel, now known as the "Pacific", has a Ukrainian crew with conditions and rates of pay far below those of Australian crews. CSL has a permit from the Department of Transport, which will allow it to carry on this trade for at least six months during which time the crew will be considered to be "guest labour". Keith Ridgeway, Deputy Secretary of the MUA in SA told The Guardian that local seafarers have nothing against the overseas crew, but the fact remains that they are being exploited by carrying out local trade at essentially "third world" rates of pay and taking local workers' jobs. Seafarers gathered at the Adelaide Brighton loading facility on Tuesday last week to protest this latest attack on their livelihoods. The MUA is also incensed at the way Australian ships are being disadvantaged by the practice of issuing the longer term "Continuous Voyage Permit" to foreign ships while Australian ships may only receive 12 hours notice of available cargo under the "Single Voyage Permit". This practice effectively undermined the viability of ships like the "River Torrens" in the first place and further jeopardises the security of domestic trade.