The Guardian October 17, 2001


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.

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