Union cold on Everest

The MPV Everest in Fremantle for repairs. File photo

A WARM welcome greeted the Antarctic supply vessel, MPV Everest when it arrived in Fremantle a fortnight ago after a fire on board, but not everyone had broad smiles.

The Australian Maritime Officers Union has been kicking up a fuss about the lack of Australian crew on the Everest since it took over the Antarctic route 18 months ago. 

It replaced the popular Aurora Australis and is an interim measure before the Australian Antarctic Division takes control of a new icebreaker the RSV Nuyina later this year. Its construction was delayed by Covid.

The Antarctic division signed a deal with Maritime Construction Services to run the Everest until the Nuyina arrives, but in a joint briefing paper with the Maritime Union of Australia and the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers, the AMOU says efforts to get an enterprise agreement in place that guaranteed some Australian employment fell on deaf ears.

The unions argued the Everest’s trips “should be completed by skilled Australian seafarers that are experienced in the Antarctic environment,” but a letter from Antarctic division general manager Charlton Clark, seen by the Herald, handballs responsibility to the shipping company. MCS commercial manager Erik de Haas said the Everest had been operating with an international crew “since the start”.

“To ensure familiarity with the vessel and in the interest of maintaining the highest safety standards, we will continue with an international composition of the crew for the provision of the MPV Everest under the charter for the AAD,” Mr de Haas said.

In the unions’ eyes, it was a missed opportunity to stimulate the economy during the Covid pandemic by creating local jobs.

Bahamas

Local AMOU organiser Glenn Anderson told the Herald the Everest was flagged in the Bahamas and was under the control of Dutch-based MCS. It was operating under a certificate issued by the federal government which meant it was exempt from Australian employment rules.

The AMOU says this also raised concerns about the Everest’s “inability to do crew change leaving these seafarers on board for the duration of the charter”. It also feared it created a quarantine gap that could let Covid-19 slip into Australia.

by SAXON OMA

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