The Maritime Union is asking that Maritime New Zealand release to the public any of their reports on the Rena after information was uncovered showing the ship had multiple problems, including with its charts.
The 236m cargo vessel Rena struck the Astrolabe Reef, near Tauranga Harbour, around 2.20am on 5 October. The Astrolabe Reef is about 4 nautical miles north of Motiti Island (about 12 nautical miles off the coast).
The Maritime Union has received information that an inspection of the vessel in Bluff by Maritime New Zealand (formerly Maritime Safety Authority) found multiple deficiencies on the Rena on 28 September 2011.
These reported deficiencies included problems with the charts – a possible clue as to how the vessel may have ended up running into the Astrolabe Reef at top speed.
Maritime Union General Secretary Joe Fleetwood says the grounding of the Rena has developed into a major maritime event with an increasing danger of very serious outcomes, with threats from oil and chemical spillage, the safe evacuation of crew and the possibility the vessel will break up, creating a major shipping hazard.
“As a Union our first concern is that the crew are safe and well and no one is endangered in the salvage operation. But we also want to quickly get answers that throw some light on why we are in this situation in the first place.”
Mr Fleetwood says he would like a public statement from Maritime New Zealand to confirm whether it was aware of problems with the ship, including charts, and if so, why was the Rena still sailing on the New Zealand coast.
“Our view is that the unregulated nature of Flag of Convenience global shipping will be shown to be the underlying cause of what has happened. We have vessels on the New Zealand coast that are not up to scratch.”
According to our source, further deficiencies on the Rena noted by Maritime New Zealand included:
- Fixed fire extinguishing installation
- Maintenance of the ship and equipment
- Obstruction/slipping, etc.
- Propulsion main engine
- Doors within main vertical zone
- Covers (hatchway-, portable-, tarpaulins, etc.)
- Gangway, accommodation ladder
- Safe means of access
- Stowage of lifeboats
- Emergency Fire Pump
- Railing, cat walks
- Other (radio)
- Lifeboat inventory
- Auxiliary engine
Many of these deficiencies are similar to problems reported by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority during inspections of the Rena in Australia.
The Rena is a Liberian flagged, Greek owned Flag of Convenience cargo ship covered by an ITF (International Transport Workers Federation) agreement. The crew as at 28 September 2011 are 25 Filipinos.
Mr Fleetwood says that the Union has identified numerous problems on Flag of Convenience vessels on the New Zealand coast over many years.
He says that there have been a number of serious incidents on overseas fishing and cargo vessels, including FOC vessels, in New Zealand ports and in and around New Zealand waters in recent years.
“We have had ongoing incidents ranging from underpayment of wages, failure for crews to be returned home at the end of their contracts, mistreatment and abuse, all the way up to serious injuries and deaths, and the sinking of vessels.
Flag of Convenience (FOC) vessels are registered in countries with very lax or non-existent regulation of the maritime industry.
FOCs provide a means of avoiding labour regulation in the country of ownership, and become a vehicle for paying low wages and forcing long hours of work and unsafe working conditions.