Report: Arrest Warrant Sought for Polaris Shipping CEO

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…As Australian Seafarers to be Removed from Two Ships***

South Korean maritime police is seeking a warrant of arrest to be issued for Kim Wan-joong, CEO and chairman of Polaris Shipping, owner and operator of the ill-fated bulk carrier Stellar Daisy that sank two years ago, Yonhap news agency reported.

The South Korean bulker was carrying 24 crew members, eight South Korean and sixteen Filipino sailors, when it sank in the South Atlantic. Only two sailors were rescued following the incident, whereas 22 crew members  are presumed dead.

Warrants of arrests are reportedly also being sought for the head of maritime affairs at Polaris Shipping, an inspector of Korean Register of Shipping in charge of Stellar Daisy as well as 2 persons from a private company responsible for inspecting the vessel and approving hull thickness following the conversion of the ship.

Specifically, the said individuals are facing charges for the violation of the shipping safety law in relation to the conversion of the said vessel from an oil carrier to a bulker, which is believed to be linked to the cause of the ship’s sinking.

Several other vessels from Polaris Shipping’s fleet reported hull cracks after the incident putting to question the vessels’ conversions.

However, the case is still being investigated by the South Korean Coast Guard and the exact cause of the ship’s sinking is yet to be determined.

According to Yonhap, a court hearing is set for Thursday to decide on the arrests. As informed, the investigation is expected to be completed by the end of next month.

In the meantime, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has expressed opposition to a decision by BHP and Bluescope to remove Australian crew from two vessels that carried iron ore from Port Hedland in Western Australia to steelworks in Port Kembla and to China.

The decision would see around 80 Australian seafarers lose their jobs. “For over 100 years, Australian crew have serviced the iron ore trade between Port Hedland and Australia’s steel makers. BHP’s decision destroys one of the oldest national domestic shipping supply chains in Australia,” said ITF Seafarers’ Section chair Dave Heindel.

The decision affects the crews of the MV Mariloula and the MV Lowlands Brilliance. “It is disturbing that BHP has initiated this action six months before the expiry of the charter, with next to no notice to the unions. The ITF condemns the move and calls on BHP to reverse this decision,” Heindel said.

The ITF supports Australian cabotage arrangements and the right of Australians seafarers to work in the domestic trade employed under Australian conditions. James Given, chair of the ITF’s cabotage task force said: “The ITF has consistently opposed the alarming use of legal loopholes to circumvent national legislation that is intended to secure the rights of Australian seafarers and their entitlements in Australia’s domestic shipping trade.”

Local Labor MPs have called on the Government to prevent the loss of the jobs by not issuing temporary licenses for any replacement ships that don’t have Australian crews under Australian conditions on the leg between Port Hedland and Port Kembla.

Steelworkers at BlueScope Steel in Port Kembla have also voiced their solidarity. The steelworkers are represented by the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) and Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU). “AWU members at BlueScope call for the reinstatement of Australian iron ore vessels crewed by Australian seafarers that have carried raw materials to Port Kembla for over 100 years. That those Australian seafarers were informed that they were to be dumped from their workplaces without notice and on an international voyage is a disgrace by the Big Australian BHP and Bluescope. The AWU condemns the replacement of these Australian workers with highly exploited foreign seafarers on Australian work visas to replace them in an Australian national transport industry.”

The Financial Review cites Rod Nairn, CEO of industry group Shipping Australia, saying: “It’s sad to see the demise of Australian flag international shipping but it’s inevitable as our labor costs are just too high.

“Shipping is a service. It brings imports to Australia and takes our exports overseas to earn revenue, we can’t live without it. But it’s a highly competitive international business, and if you can’t be competitive internationally then you just can’t survive.”

BlueScope has reportedly claimed that the decision was made so local manufacturing operations employing 6,500 Australians could remain viable. The company announced a net profit of over A$1.5 billion for the 2018 financial year, a 119 percent or $853.2 million increase on FY2017. 

World Maritime News with additional report from Maritime Executive