A 26-year-old Filipino crewmember died from a “sore throat” at sea, and his Japanese ship was forced to stop in Mackay, Queensland, Australia, on January 4 so his crewmates could seek medical treatment after allegedly being denied medical treatment for two weeks.
An expert described the incident as part of the growing problem with flag of convenience shipping in Australia.
International Transport Workers Federation Australia national coordinator Dean Summers told the Daily Mercury in Mackay that “one of the worst features of the Panamanian flag of convenience is there will be no real inquiry into this man’s death.”
Flag of convenience ships are owned by companies who register them in third world countries to avoid scrutiny of poor operating and working conditions.
There is an Australian Senate inquiry into FOC shipping, including an investigation into three suspicious deaths on board the Panama-flagged Sage Sagittarius in 2012.
Summers said the Filipino, whose name was not released, was a healthy young man who had a sore throat in China apparently from tonsillitis. He died on board his ship, Beaufiks, on December 19 on its way to pick up a cargo of coal from Queensland.
Nine of the surviving crew complained of similar symptoms, but were allegedly told they would need to pay $500 each to see a doctor in the first port of Gladstone. Summers said by law shipping companies should provide medical care, especially to seafarers who are paid so little.
In Mackay, the ITF fought for the seafarers to receive medical treatment, and they were later cleared by a doctor to return to their ship. The union wants an inquest by a coroner. The seafarer’s body was taken to Rockhampton for an autopsy.
Summers said the incident came at a time when Australian seafarers were fighting to keep their jobs over flag of convenience crews.