The Orient Becrux, which is based in Hong Kong, was placed under port state control when surveyors from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) boarded the carrier ship at noon on January 27, Tuesday, as reported by Newcastle Herald.
Dean Summers, coordinator for the International Transport Workers Federation, reported that before the ship arrived in port, the Filipino crew members of the Orient Becrux were illegally ordered to unlash a cargo of at least 300 rail cars.
Coordinator Summers was firm to mention that the actions of the aforementioned crew were a clear breach of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority however, did not lay any charges against Pacific Basin, the Hong Kong-based ship’s operators.
It was initially alleged that the crew members were forced to unlash the 300-car cargo by the charter company Pacific Basin; but the spokesperson of the operator explained that they were not in any way directly involved with the actions of the crew, which they additionally said that it had something to do with an issue or decision by the head owners.
Coordinator Summers explained how the chain of operation in a charter vessel can have different owners, which can sometimes reach 5 or 6 owners.
It should be noted that with the section 94 of the Navigation Act and the Australian Health and Safety law, it is legally mandated that cargo may only be unlashed by qualified, certified, and professional Australian stevedores and only when the ship has been successfully berthed in port, as there are implemented charges for such services including the moving of the cargo.
Summers explained that if the owner or owners of the ship opted to have the cargo unlashed illegally (meaning, even before the carrier ship arrived port), then such work is not available and is only considered peripheral. It should be noted that it is quite expensive to have the right equipment lift cargo on and off the ship.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority reported that the issuing authority for the Safety Management Certificate and the ship’s Classification Society Nippon Kaiji Kyokai conducted an audit and the corresponding corrective action concerning ship board procedures as well as cargo securing needs to be implemented.
Summers further reported that the involved crew members had to convince AMSA that they would review and audit all their safety management systems before their release from detention on Tuesday night.
He stated further that whatever terms they came to, the next time that ship comes back to an Australian port, they should let AMSA know they have done that, and that the penalty for being a repeat offender could be as stringent as banning their ships from coming to Australian ports.
Summers expressed his concern that in worst cases, compromising the stability of the shift by illegally shifting of the cargo could have caused the ship to sink.