The Shetland Oil Disaster: Unions seek inquiry into foreign ships

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The Independent Online
SEAFARERS' unions yesterday demanded a meeting with ministers to discuss a 'massive' decline in the standards of shipping sailing through British waters, writes Barrie Clement.

In the wake of the disaster of the Liberian-registered Braer, Numast, the union representing ships' officers, urged the Government to widen the Department of Transport inquiry to include the safety of vessels under foreign flags. John Newman, general secretary, said the response of Lord Caithness, the shipping minister, made him sound like 'minister for flags of convenience'. He said: 'The best thing he could do for safety in British waters is to do something to promote the British merchant fleet, with its outstanding safety record.'

The ship conformed to the statistical profile of the most vulnerable vessels, Mr Newman said. 'It was an old ship, sailing under a foreign flag with a mixed nationality crew who might find it difficult to communicate, especially in an emergency.' The senior officers on board were Greek, the junior officers were Polish and the ratings Filipino.

Tony Magregor, assistant general secretary of the union RMT, which covers ships' ratings, joined the call for a full inquiry and said: 'The disaster was waiting to happen and it will happen again unless the Government insists on higher standards.'