"FOCs are disasters waiting to happen"
The MANA Movement- New Zealand's political party launched by political activist John Minto earlier this year- wants Flag of Convenience (FOC) vessels banned from the New Zealand coast. The demand comes in the wake of the country's largest maritime environmental disaster- the Rena grounding and oil spill- that has angered New Zealanders to the extent that the crew were provided police protection after the incident. The MANA demand comes after the Maritime Union of New Zealand said that cabotage should be reintroduced in the country to prevent such future disasters.
MANA is a Maori led party that nonetheless says it wants to promote policies for all New Zealanders. Minto says the Rena disaster shows that ships registered in countries with lax employment and maritime safety laws should not be allowed to conduct coastal shipping in New Zealand. It wants the Government to enact legislation immediately to 'exclude FOCs operating on the coast of New Zealand'.
"The Rena is registered in the West African capital-of-corruption Liberia to increase profits to the ship owners by avoiding New Zealand regulations," Minto says. Referring to another recent incident of the Korean trawler 'Oyang 70' capsized off the New Zealand coast, killing three crew and investigations revealing widespread torture and abuse of its crew, Minto added, "We have already seen how foreign owned and crewed fishing vessels operating in New Zealand ignore basic health, safety and employment laws and now the Rena disaster has brought the problems off the sea and, literally, onto the shores of Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand)".
He added, "We support the campaign of the Maritime Union of New Zealand to reintroduce cabotage regulations to ensure ships undertaking coastal shipping are owned and crewed by residents of New Zealand. There would be much less likelihood of such a disaster with local owned and locally crewed ships with decent health and safety standards and decent rates of pay and employment conditions.”
There is mounting criticism and anger in New Zealand against substandard vessels on their coast. Most New Zealanders believe that the poorly regulated global nature of Flag of Convenience ships is the real cause of the Rena disaster. " We have vessels on the New Zealand coast that are not up to scratch," Maritime Union General Secretary Joe Fleetwood said, echoing MENA demands calling for an establishment of locally owned and crewed shipping in New Zealand waters.
“Why do we have ships on our coasts that Maritime New Zealand inspections say do not have the proper charts for navigation? Because the National Government of the 1990s deregulated our coastal shipping and the Labour Government of the 2000s did not heed the advice of the Maritime Union, even after all the exposures of sweatshop work practices on these ships in our waters" Minto said.
"It should never have come to this. Flag of Convenience vessels are disasters waiting to happen".