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August 5, 2002

Union blocks ANL crew switch attempt
The Australian Industrial Relations Commission today granted an "interim exceptional matters order" that bars shipping company ANL Australia from sacking the crew or selling the ship, OOCL Australia, berthed in Taiwan.

The order will remain in effect for three months. It also requires the company not to take any steps to replace the Australian crew with foreign workers.

Lawyer Josh Bernstein, who acted for the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and other unions, said ANL had tried to "ambush" the 34 Australian crew members of OOCL Australia.

"At noon today the Australian crew were ordered off the ship in Taiwan to be replaced with a foreign crew," he said yesterday.

"We believe there was a plane standing by to fly the crew back to Australia."

Unions hailed the decision as a "staggering victory in defense of Australian seafarers' rights in the ongoing battle to stop foreign shipping companies replacing the Australian shipping fleet with substandard flag of convenience vessels."

According to the MUA, the dispute over crewing of the ANL box ship OOCL Australia went to the Commission last week after ANL announced it would be reflagging and recrewing the vessel, making all 34 jobs redundant. The company then ordered the ship to bypass its scheduled port of Brisbane and sail for Taiwan, "secretly reflagging the vessel in the Bahamas," says the MUA.

The Commission found ANL had avoided any negotiations or proceedings and ordered both ASP ship management and the company to immediately confer with the maritime unions. The order requires:

1. All members of the crew of the "OOCL Australia" employed as at midday on the date of this order, including the crew on-shore at that time (the "Australian crew"), remain employed by ASP Ship Management Pty Ltd ("ASPSM").

2. ANL Container Line Pty Ltd ("ANL") its servants or agents not take any steps or further steps which would in any way impede ANL's current or future capacity beyond 1 August 2002 to use the Australian crew as the crew of the "OOCL Australia" and/or to facilitate the use of the crew as the crew of any vessel which may replace the operation of the "OOCL Australia" in the Australia/Asia service of the ANL's operations.

3. ANL not sell, charter or otherwise dispose of any interest or use it has in the "OOCL Australia".

4. ASPSM and ANL are at liberty to apply to vary the order if problems arise or changed circumstances require.

5. This Interim Exceptional Matters Order shall come into force on and from midday on Monday, 5 August 2002, and shall remain in force for a period of three months, subject to liberty to any party to apply to vary the period of operation of the order.

The crew will have to return to Australia while legal action to reinstate their right to work proceeds says the MUA. It adds that there is now wide ranging support within the community to campaign against FOC operators replacing Australian crews by way of consumer boycotts and other community protests.

MUA says that, in urgent meetings convened after the commission decision, ANL has offered to meet the unions with the view of reaching understandings about ongoing crewing by Australian seafarers on either the OOCL Australia, its replacement vessel or a new coastal container service.

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