The Maritime Union says that it will be looking into health and safety aboard the bulk carrier TPC Wellington after a serious accident.
Two sailors, one Korean and one Burmese, died after suffocating in the ship’s timber hold at Marsden Point wharf near Whangarei yesterday afternoon.
Maritime Union of New Zealand General Secretary Joe Fleetwood says it is likely this was an unnecessary tragedy.
“Last week we commemorated International Workers Memorial Day, to remember all those workers killed and harmed on the job, and now sadly we already have more workplace fatalities.”
Mr Fleetwood says the Union is not making any assumptions about the incident.
A full investigation was required to identify what happened.
“What we will be asking about is the safety of the vessel, were all safety precautions taken, was there any use of toxic chemicals aboard the vessel, and what were the onboard conditions for the crew.”
Mr Fleetwood says that fatalities and serious injuries occurred far too often in the maritime industry, often due to corner cutting and time pressures in a deregulated industry.
He says the event was the most serious in a New Zealand port for some time.
“Firstly, before assigning responsibility to anyone, let alone the victims, we need to know the events leading up to the deaths, and whether these workers were aware of any dangers.”
Mr Fleetwood says it is common to find safety issues aboard “flag of convenience” ships and fishing vessels.
This was complicated by communication issues as many crews were comprised of different nationalities.
The Maritime Union of New Zealand is an affiliate of the International Transport Workers Federation, which is the global organization representing transport workers including seafarers, fisheries workers, waterfront workers and other maritime workers.