Foreign ships a criminals' haven but no action from Govt

FEARS held by border authorities that ocean-faring ships could act as havens for criminals and terrorists have been dismissed by the Federal Government.

It has been 12 months since the results of an inquiry into foreign shipping was handed to the Senate, flagging national security risks, problems with how authorities share information and a failing maritime industry.

The government failed to support any of the inquiry's 10 recommendations.

Perhaps most surprising was the government's failure to support a call to scrutinise "the potential security risks posed by flags of convenience vessels and foreign crews".

A "flag of convenience" vessel is one registered in a country where insurance and tax costs are lower and safety regulations far less stringent.

A submission from the Department of Border Protection and Immigration spelled out the risks posed by these ships.

The department said they were "more attractive for use in illegal activity, including by organised crime or terrorist groups".

It added: "This means that FOC ships may be used in a range of illegal activities, including illegal exploitation of natural resources, illegal activity in protected areas, people smuggling and facilitating imports and exports".

Emily Smith

On Wednesday, Senator Glenn Sterle described the government as "charlatans" on national security for ignoring the advice from its own border security experts.

"It's very difficult for the Australian people to believe anything they say on national security," Senator Sterle said.

"They're not the experts. They're charlatans.

"How can we have a government that espouses that it's so tough and patriotic, yet we have this premium department, and they won't accept their own agency's expertise in this area?"

The gaps in Australian borders became national news when a ship captain linked to two deaths aboard his former vessel - and wanted for questioning by Australian Federal Police - went unnoticed while leading another ship along the Queensland coast.

He was discovered at the Port of Gladstone as part of a News Corp Australia investigation.

The Sage Sagittarius, notoriously dubbed the Death Ship, became part of a police investigation after a senior cook disappeared overboard in late 2012.

Weeks later, his top engineer suffered a blow to the skull before plunging 11m to his death.

In less than two months, three seafarers were killed while working aboard the Japanese-owned Sage Sagittarius, earning it the label of
In less than two months, three seafarers were killed while working aboard the Japanese-owned Sage Sagittarius, earning it the label of "death ship" by international welfare groups

The captain was compelled to front an inquest into the deaths after this newspaper made his location public.

The inquest is expected to hand down its findings on Friday.

The discovery of the Death Ship's captain led Senate Inquiry chair, Labor Senator Sterle, to demand answers from the Department of Border Protection.

Adam Meyer from the department's intelligence division said at the time while it was aware the captain was on our shores "it was not an active knowledge" and it was not shared with other authorities.

Former police officer and Queensland LNP Senator Barry O'Sullivan quizzed top brass on how that was possible and why authorities were not immediately alerted when the missing captain arrived.

A spokesman for Senator O'Sullivan said he was still considering the recommendations.

Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton's office said he had "nothing further to add".