ITF Asia Pacific Regional Seafarers Committee

The ITF Asia Pacific Regional Seafarers Committee [ITFAPSC] met in Jakarta on the 12-13 June 2012. The ITFAPSC meeting was well attended with affiliates from 18 countries in attendance. Jan Thompson attended on behalf of the AMOU.

Issues discussed included the ITF structure; the economic situation of the global shipping industry; piracy and armed robbery; ILO ratification and developments; women seafarers; young seafarers, implementation of the flag of convenience policy adopted in Mexico; and maritime safety issues.

The ITFAPSC passed resolutions on piracy, Iranian seafarers, and Australia received a "bouquet" for the new Australian cabotage legislation and a "briquette" for the deskilling of marine crew on Australian floating production storage and offtake vessels [FPSO].

The ITFAPSC is deeply concerned about the piracy attacks against seafarers taking place, particularly around Somalia. In Somalia alone, since 2008, over 800 ships have been attacked with 3212 seafarers being held as hostage and sadly 67 seafarers have been killed by their captors. The ITFAPSC is concerned that some countries are attempting to make payment of ransom illegal, and notes that the non-payment of ransom will put seafarer's lives at further risk. The ITFAPSC calls on all governments to find an effective solution combat the menace of piracy.

The ITFAPSC condemns the discrimination meted out against Iranian seafarers due to their nationality, such discrimination has resulted in loss of job opportunities and has also deprived them shore leave; even in medical emergencies.

The ITFAPSC congratulated the MUA and the AMOU on the passage in the lower house of the Australian Parliament of 5 Bills implementing a revitalisation of Australian cabotage and international shipping.  The Australian International Ship Register was of particular interest to our affiliates in the pacific region as it has the potential benefit of providing high-quality employment for regional seafarers on ships engaged under the second register. These ships will have at least two Australian crew, presumably the Master and Chief Engineer. The Shipping Registration Amendment (Australian International Shipping Register) Bill 2012 is based around the ILO Maritime Labour Convention and ITF standards, similar to those international registers found in Europe and the UK.

Floating production storage and offtake [FPSO] Operators insist that a Master on their vessel is called a Marine Supervisor and the Chief Mate is called a Lead Marine Specialist Officer and an IR is called a General Service Operator. This insidious classification relates to a loop hole within our legislation, which allows FPSO's to be regarded as something other than a "ship" that is until there is a cyclone or some other emergency and the FPSO has to be moved and the vessel becomes a "ship" again and therefore requires a marine crew again. Woodside are replacing qualified seafarers with crew who have completed a 14-day company-run marine watch-keeping course. The crew will not be trained seafarers, or even meet the requirements of the STCW Convention.

The ITFAPSC deplores the attempt by major Australian oil and gas operators to deskill and de-recognise the marine crews aboard FPSO vessels.

International safety conventions, Australia national safety standards, minimum safe manning standards, and qualifications developed to ensure safety at sea must apply on all vessels, especially FPSOs that can carry approximately 1 million barrels of oil in areas subject to major storms and cyclones. By allowing companies to take these actions, the Australian Government is not meeting its obligations under the SOLAS Convention - of which it is a signatory.

The ITFAPSC calls on the Australian Government and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to ensure that the Australian Navigation Act and all relevant IMO and ILO Conventions are reinstated to apply to all ships, including those attached to the seabed for periods of time to explore for or to extract hydrocarbons.

Jan Thompson,  Industrial Officer