ANL hijacks cargo, jobs
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) is gearing up to do battle with ANL in an attempt to rescue 34 Australian jobs. The last of the once proud Australian National Line container ships will no longer fly the Australian flag. The OOCL Australia was due to port at Brisbane but is now heading for Taiwan with its Brisbane-bound cargo still on board. Its Australian crew will be paid off and repatriated. "We are not going to stand back and watch an entire industry disappear. Australian working families stood behind the MUA against CSL and we'll make a stand against the CGM consortium" said MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin. The Howard Government sold the Australian-owned shipping fleet ANL to the French company CGM and the Canadian based CSL in the 90's. ANL denies it has hijacked any Australian cargo, but the MUA has a fax from ANL General Manager, Operations, Noel Dent, dated July 23. The fax stated that the OOCL Australia was scheduled to dock in Brisbane. One by one foreign shipping consortiums have replaced the Australian crewed and flagged fleet with flags of convenience and highly exploited third world labour. Ships of shame, such as the ANL Progress which has just arrived in Melbourne, are at the centre of a dispute with the International Transport Federation (ITF). The New Zealand courts ruled in February that ITF inspectors continue to be allowed aboard to check crew conditions and wages. "They refuse to sign agreements on basic ITF minimum wage rates", said ITF Australia Co-ordinator Dean Summers. "What have they got to hide? Is it that the crew are getting the sort of slave wages we uncovered in Fremantle last week — US$215 a month basic?" The ITF claimed the crew had been cheated $300,000 in wages, intimidated and stood-over. Australian seafarers on board the ANL Bass Trader had started a hunger strike in solidarity with OCC Australia. The crew on board the ship voted to keep it in port and go on the hunger strike fight against ANL's decision to flag out the last Australian container vessel and make all 34 crew redundant. Another 34 jobs would go if the company decides to replace crew on the ship. "They've done it to the OOCL Australia and we could be next", said union spokesman Barry Saint. "This protest is to show that Australian seafarers and their families are going to be left starving while the Australian shipping industry is replaced by shonky flag of convenience vessels." The ANL fleet is now almost entirely flag of convenience — ships of shame infamous for environmental disasters, human rights abuse and, more, recently gun running, drug trafficking and shipping terrorists. The MUA is seeking a commitment from the company that both crews are represented at formal discussions with management.