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Friday, October 21

MV RENA disaster in New Zealand, shows the evils in substandard shipping and in the Flag of Convenience system used by unscrupulous shipowners

The International Seafarers Action Center (ISAC) Philippines Foundation, laments the tragic incident involving the vessel MV Rena of Liberian registry, which ran aground the Astrolabe Reef at the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.

The damage to New Zealand’s ecosystem is enormous, with the oil spill that has already claimed the lives of 1,290 birds, 4 other animals, and that has injured seals, marine life and birds.

The trauma, fear and physical sufferings of the mostly Filipino crew on board, who were made to stay on board the tilting ship for six days without rescue, highlights the human and environmental damage that this incident has caused.

This is further worsened by some racist and extreme right elements in New Zealand who blame the national origin of the Filipino crew for the incident, in order to launch a racist attack on the some 20,000 Filipino migrants who are now in New Zealand.

This is an accident that is waiting to happen. Without pre-empting the results of the on going maritime investigation, this incident reveals the half a century old problem of substandard shipping and the use of Flags of Convenience by unscrupulous shipowners to reduce cost and to amass more profit.

The MV Rena is flying the Flag of Convenience of Liberia although the real or beneficial owners are Greek. It is an old and substandard vessel that was built in 1990. For the past 36 months, 50% of inspection for deficiencies resulted in the detention of the vessel. Last July, 21, 2011 it was inspected and detained in Fremantle , Australia for 17 deficiencies.

It is not surprising then, that this vessel would figure, sooner or later, in an accident of this sort. Many incidents involving substandard vessels flying Flags of Convenience tragically led not only to massive oil spills but to the loss of human lives. This is regardless of the color of the skin, or of the racial origins of the officers and men crewing these vessels.

We at ISAC condemn the Flag of Convenience system and the proliferation of substandard ships that is the root of maritime disasters occurring all over the world. We are one with the people of New Zealand who shall be battling the effects of this environmental tragedy for many years to come. 

Finally,we stand in solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of seafarers of all races and nationality who are driven by extreme economic hardships at home and who have no other recourse but to work on substandard ships and Flags of Convenience, undaunted by the serious risks to their lives and limbs.

Oppose the Flag of Convenience system! Ensure decent work for seafarers! Keep our seas safe!