World Maritime News Staff, October 10, 2014; Image: MUA zoom Ocean DroverAfter over 18 hours the fire on board the livestock carrier Ocean Drover in Fremantle Harbour WA, Australia, has been extinguished.One Filipino seafarer remains in a critical condition after sustaining burns and smoke inhalation after yesterday’s fire.Another two seafarers who were taken to hospital have been cleared for release and will join the other 52 crew in accommodation being provided by the Australian shipping company – Wellard, according to the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) Inspector Keith McCorriston said the fire took more than 18 hours to extinguish and he believes the ship will be unable to sail in its current condition.Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) crews are continuing thermal monitoring this morning and the work of assessing the cause of the fire and extent of the damage will begin once safe entry is available, the Freemantle Ports said in a release.“At about 0900 on 9 October, a fire was reported to have started in the ship’s accommodation. The ship’s crew and local authorities responded to the fire. All the crew were accounted for and one crew member was sent to a hospital ashore for treatment to burns,” the Australian Transport Bureau’s report from yesterday said.Ocean Drover, the world’s largest, purpose-built livestock carrier, is operated by Singapore-based Wellard Ships.The vessel was scheduled to load 6,000 cattle and take on more livestock in Darwin next week before heading to Indonesia.The extent of the damage is unknown, however, ATSB assigned the fire with “serious incident” category.Managing director of Wellard, Mauro Balzarini, told ABC that the vessel will be out of action for months.Fortunately, there were no livestock on board when the fire started.The ATSB has commenced an investigation into this accident. The Bureau said it would designate an investigation team to collect relevant evidence including interviewing directly involved parties.Report on the investigation is expected by September 2015.The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) says that the major blaze on board the livestock carrier Ocean Drover in Fremantle once again shows the dangers of sub-standard Flag of Convenience (FOC) shipping.ITF Australia Co-ordinator Dean Summers said around 70 seafarers from the Philippines and India work on the vessel, which is Australian-owned, managed in Croatia, and flagged in Singapore.“As always our first concern is for the seafarers who are often forced to live in unsafe, cramped and dangerous conditions,” Mr Summers said.“The crew does not have the appropriate ITF agreement to guarantee minimum pay and conditions for those working on board the vessel.“Unfortunately the Australian owners have used the FOC system which has been at the centre of serious problems in the region.”The ship owners, Wellard Estates, also operate two sister ships – the Ocean Swagman and Ocean Outback – which also trade to south-east Asia Australia under the same arrangements, according to MUA.The departure of two ships was delayed yesterday but the Inner Harbour was re-opened to shipping at 4 p.m. yesterday afternoon. Cargo handling operations have resumed at the Fremantle port, the port authority said this morning.
India says Sri Lanka has sought an undertaking that Indian fishermen will not engage in bottom trawling in order to reach an agreement to end the dispute between fishermen from both countries.Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh told the Rajya Sabha that the main reason for frequent arrest of Indian fishermen by Sri Lankan authorities was due to the allegation that they indulge in bottom trawling and there being no physical demarcation of international maritime boundaries, NDTV reported. Asked why an agreement is not put in place despite three rounds of meetings between fishermen associations in which governments are involved, he said “Sri Lankan fishermen have said that you all are involved in bottom trawling. Till the time that is stopped we cannot have an agreement on fishing in each other’s waters. That is the main reason that is stopping a proper agreement to come into place between two countries.”Singh said bottom trawling is considered very bad in fishing circles as it wipes out the complete marine life and the Sri Lankan authorities say that “if you give an undertaking that your fishermen will not be involved in the practice, then they can take a different view.” “As on date there are only 34 fishermen and 19 boats which are in custody of Sri Lanka. From time to time, government secures the release of Indian fishermen. The last release that took place was of 99 Indian fishermen on April 9 in exchange for 9 Sri Lankan fishermen,” he said. Singh said this problem was “acute till we achieve some sort of an understanding between fishermen of both sides … The understanding has not been reached even after three rounds of talks between the two fishermen associations.” He said the Indian Government accords highest priority to the safety and security of Indian fishermen and provides regular consular access to those detained in foreign countries and secure their early release by intervening at the highest level.