Holes in official accounts of Rena’s seaworthiness
The Maritime Union has renewed calls for inspection reports on the Rena to be made public and for clarification of what a Maritime New Zealand inspection involves.
Maritime Union of New Zealand General Secretary Joe Fleetwood says it is still unclear what type of inspection was carried out on the Rena in Bluff by Maritime New Zealand on 28 September 2011.
“Was this Maritime New Zealand inspection a full inspection of all areas of concern that had been picked up in China or Australia, or was it simply a chat to the Master and acceptance of whatever he said? Let’s see the paperwork.”
Mr Fleetwood says numerous issues with the Rena had been picked up in Australia and China over preceding months leading to the ship being detained. These had included several safety of navigation issues.
He says the real issue is the power of ship operators and charterers, and inadequate controls by ports and national maritime authorities.
“Masters are held hostage to the demands of the charterers and owners, which is where the real responsibility lies, but those at the top are almost untouchable.”
Mr Fleetwood says one area which had not been discussed so far is how the hectic schedule of the Rena calling into multiple New Zealand ports in a short window of time may have caused crew fatigue.
“There is massive pressure on crews coming on from charterers and owners. Will charges be laid at the highest level or will the crew be made to be scapegoats while the big boys walk free and the taxpayer carries the cost of the clean up?”
Mr Fleetwood says he is concerned about the removal of crew members of the Rena from New Zealand.
He does not accept on face value the claim that this is for the crews own safety, as New Zealand had a police force that presumably was able to look after a few crew members.
“Our experience in the fishing and maritime industry is that agents and charterers, acting in concert with the authorities, are often in a huge hurry to get crews out of the country in similar situations to this.”
“We believe this is largely to do with minimizing the publicity and possibility of legal action. Is this another smother up going on here?”
Mr Fleetwood says the Filipino community should have nothing to fear following the Rena disaster, after reports of concerns for their safety.
“I have never heard anything so stupid than New Zealanders who want to blame Filipinos for this disaster. Most of the crew on the ship have no control over its navigation, and at this stage the arrested officers have not been convicted of anything, let alone people who aren’t anything to do with the ship.”
Mr Fleetwood says if people wanted to vent their frustration, it should be done in a strong and forceful way at the present and past New Zealand Governments and authorities who have allowed substandard flag of convenience vessels to continually trade on the New Zealand coast.
He says people interested in the background of the shipping issues should check out the MUNZ website (www.munz.org.nz) and the flag of convenience information on the website of the International Transport Workers Federation (www.itfglobal.org)
For more information contact Maritime Union of New Zealand General Secretary Joe Fleetwood on 021364649