'Murder ship' cleared of latest safety allegations
A JAPANESE coal carrier has passed a major safety inspection by Australian authorities following allegations the ship's critical life-saving equipment was in disrepair.
The Sage Sagittarius - dubbed the Murder Ship after a spate of deaths on board in 2012 - was subjected to an inspection lasting almost five hours by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority at the Port of Newcastle in mid-November.
The three deaths on board are the subject of a coronial inquest following an award-winning investigation by APN.
During a September visit to the ship, the International Transport Workers' reported that equipment, including life-rafts and emergency switches were either damaged or inoperable.
During the inspection, AMSA examined life rafts, emergency-stop buttons, gratings and hand-rails - all reported to be unsafe by the ITF - and gave the all clear.
The Sage Sagittarius is one of thousands of coal-carrying ships that deliver Australian minerals to Asia.
As it has navigated the high-traffic trade route between Japan and Australia, the Sagittarius has visited ports in Gladstone and Bowen in Central Queensland.
ITF Australia coordinator Dean Summers said for the ship to earn approval from AMSA, repairs must have been done while it was out of Australian waters.
"I know I saw those [emergency shut-off buttons] on the deck, they were absolutely rusted and falling to pieces," he said.
"If the company has done an audit themselves, I think it's a job well done."
Mr Summers said the company's response to the complaint meant it avoided the ship being put in detention while repairs were undertaken.
Hachiuma spokesman Naoya Miyasaka responded to questions by email from his Tokyo office.
He said "planned and on-going maintenance" was carried out on the Sagittarius before the inspection but did not give specifics on what work was done.
Mr Miyasaka said the Sagittarius, like all ships managed by Hachiuma, was "maintained to a high standard".
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
AUGUST 30, 2012 (Day of first death)
● Filipino chief cook Cesar Llanto, 42, vanished overboard 800km north-west of Cairns.
● Crew members claim he was reporting abuse suffered by a fellow seafarer. Investigators found no way he could fall overboard. Ship diverted to Port Kembla for investigation.
SEPTEMBER 14, 2012 (15 days after first death)
● Filipino chief engineer Hector Collado, 57, falls more than 10m to his death while the ship was docked at the Port of Newcastle.
OCTOBER 6, 2012 (37 days after first death)
● Monji, 37, crushed to death by conveyor belt machinery in Japan
SEPTEMBER 19, 2013 (One year, 20 days after first death)
● Panama publishes confidential report into three deaths.
JUNE 16, 2014 (One year, 9 months, 17 days after first death)
● New South Wales Coroner to consider an inquest into Mr Llanto and Mr Collado's deaths in Australian waters.