Mystery of ship’s welders deepens
THE mystery arrival of four metalworkers aboard a ship moored in Newcastle has become the focal point of a mystery sweeping through Australian shipping circles.
An International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) inspector boarded the Helvetia on Wednesday amid reports welders from Singapore had replaced Newcastle-based tradesmen removing metal lugs from the deck.
ITF Australian co-ordinator Dean Summers said the inspector’s findings were unusual and the organisation was still seeking answers.
“We found four others on the ship and I don’t know what their status is,” he said.
“They didn’t sail in on this ship and they won’t sail out on this ship. They were just flown out here to do this welding work, which Newcastle workers could have done.”
The Newcastle Herald sought comment from the ship’s owners through their Australian agent.
Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said the workers’ position was “deeply concerning”, while lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said she shared union concerns about the circumstances around the men.
The inspection follows union members picketing the ship on Tuesday afternoon over allegations the workers displaced Hunter welders.
Roughly 30 Australian Manufacturing Workers Union members gathered at the site in protest of the ship’s operators’ decision not to use local labour.
AMWU organiser Cory Wright said equipment photographed aboard the ship fell short of Australian safety standards.
“We also question how these workers were inducted to our Newcastle port,” he said on Wednesday.
Maritime Union of Australia acting branch secretary Dennis Outram said the uncertainty around the men’s arrival was a concern for seafarers and the broader shipping industry.
“It’s taken some time to get the level of understanding that we do have and that’s by getting someone on there,” Mr Outram said.