ABC Online, 22 July 2015

The ship at the centre of an industrial dispute is expected to leave northern Tasmania early on Wednesday morning after languishing for almost three weeks in dock.

The Alexander Spirit, bound for Singapore, has been stuck in Devonport for 18 days after its 36 crew members refused to sail on being told they were being replaced by foreign workers.

The seafarers refused to crew the ship but the Fair Work Commission deemed their industrial action to be illegal.

Since then, the departure of the Caltex oil tanker has been delayed by a lack of crew members because some left the ship citing stress, but a full crew is now in place.

The ship’s operator Teekay Shipping has confirmed the tanker will leave at 3:00am on Wednesday.

The sacked crew members warned Tasmania was now entirely dependent on international ships with foreign crew to supply its petrol.

Crew member Andy Poynten said the redundancies would have a lasting effect on Tasmania.

“The island state of Tasmania will be entirely dependent on international ships with foreign crews supplying its petrol,” he said.

“The rest of Australia will be in the same position within a few years unless something is done.”

Caltex said the redundancies were necessary because the ship’s role had changed, now spending most of the year in international waters.

Job opportunities for domestic seafarers ‘few and far between’

A Tasmanian academic said the crew would struggle to find work after their jobs go to overseas workers.

Professor John Lloyd from the University of Tasmania’s Maritime College said job opportunities for domestic seafarers were “few and far between”.

“For a large number of years now, the Australian merchant shipping fleet has been declining in size,” he said.

“We don’t have many tonnages coming into the sector at the moment so new job opportunities are few and far between for those who want to work around the coast of Australia.

“Ninety-five per cent of goods are carried at some point by ships at sea and the reality is that’s largely invisible to the general public.”

Professor Lloyd said goods were increasingly being brought into Australia via international shipping routes and many sectors of the industry wanted to see some of that trade assigned to Australian ships.

“There is the opportunity to look at how much of that responsibility for moving goods around the coast of Australia we’re prepared to put into the hands of a third party,” he said.

“It’s important that we’ve got control over the standards and quality of the activities based around our coastline.”

Extracted in full from ABC Online.

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