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Federal inspectors to board 'Death Ship' after safety claims

FEDERAL safety inspectors will this week board a coal carrier dubbed the "Death Ship", following accusations the ship's critical life-saving equipment was in disrepair.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is to inspect the Sagittarius when it arrives at the Port of Newcastle.

It is due to arrive on Thursday morning.

The Japanese-owned Sage Sagittarius is already being scrutinised by the New South Wales Coroner, who is considering how two Filipino sailors lost their lives as the ship ventured through Australian waters in late 2012.

The death of a third sailor - a Japanese national - just weeks later earned Sagittarius the nickname of "death or murder ship" from worker advocates.

The inquest was announced earlier this year following a six-month award-winning investigation by APN.

The Sagittarius is one of thousands of bulk carriers that visit regional Queensland ports including those of Gladstone and Abbot Point north of Mackay.

The AMSA team will examine the ship in response to safety allegations raised by the International Transport Workers' Federation.

The ITF raised the concerns after it visited the ship as part of a site visit organised by NSW Deputy Coroner Sharon Freund.

ITF Australia coordinator Dean Summers said at the time that fundamental safety equipment on the Sagittarius was "rusted and frozen and completely inoperable" .

Sagittarius' owners Hachiuma Steamship said ship inspections were conducted regularly to ensure seaworthiness.

Spokesman Naoya Miyasaka said despite this, the ITF's allegations would be taken seriously.

"Safety and seaworthiness are at the heart of everything we do at Hachiuma," he said.

Mr Miyasaka said ships had to pass "Port State Control" inspections which would stop the Sagittarius from leaving port if problems were identified.

"Hachiuma Steamship's primary concern is the safe operation of our managed vessels and safety of our valued crew members."

More than 1600 pages of notes from the Australian Federal Police, NSW Police, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and international authorities will be examined by the Deputy Coroner before the inquest begins in May next year.
 

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.

 



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