Emily Bryan, 13 July 2015

The departure of a fuel tanker at the centre of an industrial dispute has been delayed again and it may not be able to sail tonight as scheduled due to crew illness.

The Alexander Spirit has been docked in Devonport for 10 days after a protest by the crew, who are being replaced by foreign workers on a new international route.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) met the ship’s operator Teekay aboard the Caltex tanker over the weekend.

The union’s Ian Bray said at least four crew members have now left the ship due to stress-related health problems.

“Mostly it’s highly emotional, it’s been the stressful situation they don’t want, they said they just couldn’t deal with it,” he said.

Teekay could not be reached for comment, but the sticking point seems to be whether there are enough crew members on board to man the ship with those shortages.

It is not clear whether new crew members will need to be brought in to meet safe manning requirements.

Mr Bray said the crew had received counselling.

“The ship is an isolated workplace, they’re away from support groups, they’re away from family,” he said.

At least one of the seafarers is yet to return to the ship after having a panic attack.

Last week, the crew’s protest was deemed illegal by Fair work Australia.

Mr Bray said Teekay acknowledged the crew had not breached the Fair Work ruling.

“They want to make sure firstly that they’re creating a stable environment on board, and fair play to Teekay,” he said.

“The fact is they’ve realised the high level of stress on board and said we have to do something about that.”

Extracted in full from ABC News.