The preventable death of a seafarer is a reminder to the Australian Government to implement a nationally consistent standard operating procedure for crew changes on trading vessels.
The man passed away after falling off a ladder on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. The ladder was primarily used for transferring seafarers between a small vessel and the Formosabulk Cement, a Liberian-flagged bulk carrier.
The incident took place about five nautical miles off Mooloolaba. Since it has happened in Australian waters, the vessel has been detained by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. The authorities are expected to investigate the death.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation has reportedly said the absence of a consistent policy on international crew changes besides restrictive state-based health orders could have possibly led to the high-risk transfer offshore rather than conducting at the port.
At present, Queensland is one of the few Australian states that have been changing crews on international vessels. The vessels, in a majority of cases, have seafarers who have been trapped on board for over a year owing to the ongoing COVID crisis.
The Formosabulk Cement had been sailing to an NSW port, where a crew change would have been safely conducted at the berth. However, owing to the state’s restrictive health orders, the operator of the vessel decided to replace the crew as it sailed down the QLD coast.
After spending 2020 at sea, the seafarer was awaiting to return to his family. But instead, they received the tragic news of his untimely demise.
It is imperative that the Australian Government learns from the preventable death and deploys urgent measures to address the crew change crisis that led to such an incident.
The Federal and State Governments are complicit in fatalities that occur as crew changes are at the moment being undertaken unsafely owing to prescribed health orders.