December 2nd 2000

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: U.S. Elections - And the winner is ... Alan Greenspan!

EDITORIAL: Kyoto Protocol may harm Australian industry

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Country voters won't buy rural road scheme

QUARANTINE: Has Canberra misconstrued WTO rules on quarantine?

COMMENT: Globalisation + monopolies = a less free market


Straws in the Wind


SOCIETY: Is There a Way Out of the West's Cultural Crisis?

TRADE AND THE ECONOMY: How important is trade for Australia?

AGRICULTURE: WTO rules permit assistance to agriculture

INDONESIA: Conflict intensifies in West Papua

EDUCATION: The Great Exam Diversion

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by Russell Brennan, Sir Arvi Parbo

News Weekly, December 2, 2000
The last word on flags of convenience


Mr Hudson's latest attempt at argument again did not address the data which indicated problems associated with Flag of Convenience (FOC) flag states, other than stating these arguments were "well known" - hardly comprehensive counter-analysis.

The argument that my previous points had been based upon some sort of emotive supposition was ridiculous. The issue of flag state responsibility is one of the most fundamental debates within the development of maritime law.

Significantly, Mr Hudson drew no attention to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, (UNCLOS) 1982 (ratified 1994), which has been signed by over 150 states and now ratified by over 60 states.

The Convention is detailed and comprises 320 articles. The language in the Convention could be interpreted as ambiguous, but under the Vienna Convention of Laws and Treaties Article 31(1), states are to interpret and implement the Convention in the context of which it was designed.

Article 94 of UNCLOS states in part that,

1. Every State shall effectively exercise its jurisdictions and control in administrative, technical and social matters over ships flying its flag.

2. In particular, every State shall:

(a) maintain a register of ships containing the names and particulars of flying its flag, except those which are excluded from generally accepted international regulations on account of their small size, and

(b) assume jurisdiction under its internal law over each ship flying its flag and its master, officers and crew in respect of administrative, technical and social matters concerning the ship.

3. Every State shall take such measures for ships flying its flag as are necessary to ensure safety at sea with regard inter alia, to:

(a) the construction, equipment and seaworthiness of ships,

(b) the manning of ships, labour conditions and the training of crews, taking into account the applicable international instruments.

(c) The use of signals, the maintenance of communications and the prevention of collisions [with] each State is required to conform to generally accepted international regulations, procedures and practices and to take any steps which may be necessary to secure their observance ...

The actual enforcement of this UNCLOS Convention by ratifying states is another important debate altogether. But Hudson's point that "it has nothing to do with flag states" is questionable to say the least. I had previously mentioned three particular vessel causalities within the context of the difficulties of being able to track ship-owners, many of whom hide behind complex webs of brass-plate offshore companies.

Mr Hudson took this specific point out of context. Had I wanted to draw attention to more shipping casualties I could have mentioned more than just three - and I suggest Hudson knows it.

Contrary to Hudson's assertions, a number of maritime and media agencies did criticise the role of flag states after the Erika disaster.

DG VII of the European Commission released a report which was, in part, critical of the role of some flag states. One basis of the EC argument, out of many, was that world-wide, 523 ships had sunk between 1992 and 1999 with a disproportion of these vessels having been FOCs.

A documentary by the BBC's Tom Mangold, concerning the Erika disaster, criticised the role of the flag State (in this case Malta), RINA - the involved classification society, port state control procedures and inspections which oil companies make on tankers before beginning charter contracts.

If the FOC flag state of Malta had no part in the Erika disaster then why did Mr Lino Vassallo (Malta Maritime Authority) agree to be interviewed by Mr Mangold? Mr Mangold was compelled to argue that the Captain of the Erika, Captain Karun Mathur, had been made a scapegoat.

Given the recent unfortunate sinking of two vessels in Greek waters, the Greek authorities, in its capacity as flag state, then prevented the sailing of 60 substandard ferries - something they should have done so way before. I didn't hear much praise for Hudson's Golden Greeks.

Russell Brennan,
Griffith University,
Nathan, Qld

This correspondence is now closed. Ed.

"Australia before Multiculturalism" - a correction


I read with utter disbelief the statements attributed to me in the article "Australia Before Multiculturalism" by Antonia Feitz in your 18 November, 2000 issue.

I agree with the view that the use of the term "multiculturalism" should be discontinued because it means different things to different people and can be therefore misleading.

However, I have never made the comments quoted in the article, either orally or in writing. Apart from being a complete mischievous fabrication, parts of the statement are also factually incorrect; I have never been a mine owner, enthused about the conditions in Bonegilla in the childish terms reported, or lauded the term "New Australians."

Needless to say, I am deeply concerned about this fraudulant use of my name and damage to my reputation and am taking advice as to what remedies may be available to me. At the very minimum, I would like this letter published in the next issue of News Weekly.

Sir Arvi Parbo, A.C.
Vermont South, Vic

Our apologies to Sir Arvi Parbo. The quotations which appeared in Antonia Feitz's article first appeared in an article headed, "The big Australians", written by Simon Kent, which appeared in the Herald Sun on August 31, 1997 - Ed.

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