A Queensland registered 77 Ft trawler named Challenger with a full Indonesian crew of four ran aground on the rocks between Cronulla Point and Shark Island, at 12.45am today [19/2/2013]. There is a serious environmental concern that the diesel on board the ship could leak into the water causing ecological damage to the pristine environment of the popular surf beach.

This incident once again highlights the inherently dangerous nature of the maritime industry and maritime environment. The AMOU have worked cooperatively and tirelessly for many years with the Australian government to ensure that the highest possible safety standards are adhered to at all times.

We understand that the Indonesian fishermen were working in Australia under the 457 Visa scheme. ABC News's Claire Aird told camera that, "Now you might be able to see that there is still a navigation light on the boat and also a steaming light which would suggest that the anchor light was not on and that the boat ran full steam ahead into the rocks, Now of course this is speculation at this stage." click here to view image.

The anecdotal evidence is mounting that foreign workers especially engaged as Masters under the 457 visa immigration program do not have the relevant knowledge and experience of the safe working practices of the Australian maritime industry and are therefore putting lives and the environment at risk.

The Australian maritime industry has developed a safety culture and Australian Masters who have come up from the IR trainee or Deck cadet training program, have had years of exposure to our health and safety regime, they have an intimate understanding of the relevant OH&S regulation, and the importance of taking all reasonable steps to ensure that all work and other activities are carried out in a safe manner and minimise the health risk to any person at all times and the important need to safe guard the environment.

In fairness to a foreign Master, they may hold the appropriate Certificate of Competency, however if their past working environment is from a country that pays scant regard to health and safety and the environment, where life is cheap and pollution of the environment is acceptable, then there is a very strong argument that the employment of Foreign Masters, based on safety culture alone is a risk factor.  A risk factor that Australians should not tolerate

We call on the Australian government to remove the occupations of Masters and Deck Officers off the 457 visa program, firstly because foreign workers do not seem to appreciate our strong occupational health and safety and environmental culture and secondly we have an adequate number of qualified Deck Officers to fill the current positions available in the maritime industry.

The question needs to be answered as to why it was necessary for Indonesian fishermen to be employed in Australia. Next we will have Japanese seafarers on our research vessels monitoring whales.