Report Lebanese bulk carrier disembarked 18 unknown, unchecked Syrian "passport" holders alongside Gladstone
Glancing through the website you could easily get the idea that the Gladstone Observer doesn't create too much Middle East terror news. It's a local paper serving a local community.
Firefights mop up car crash on Glenlyon St and Gladstone learner's passenger done for drink driving are the sorts of headlines Gladstone's used to reading.
So with news of Islamic State atrocities ringing in our ears, this headline would have come as a hell of a shock to Gladdie dwellers. And me. And thanks to Shaz of Christmas Island for passing on the tip.
A CREW of 19 Syrian sailors were given permission to leave their ship despite only one having a valid visa as they approached Gladstone.
The crew of the 35,000-tonne Lebanese tanker "OS 35" docked in Gladstone on July 10.
[MPS note - I doubt that's the vessel. The paper carried this photo of the Tuvalu registered Bulk Carrier OS35 - more details at the foot of this post.
OS35 is also an anchor point specified by the Harbour Master at Dalrymple Bay, Hay Point (the next major port north of Gladstone) where the actual reported ship referred to in the story may have been at anchor.
The paper carried this photo of the Tuvalu registered Bulk Carrier OS35 which hasn't been within cooee of Gladstone or Australian in yonks- more details at the foot of this post]
Foreign seafarers are expected to be cleared by security checks to be approved for a Maritime Crew Visa or MCV ahead of their arrival.
Security checks imposed on foreign sailors are far less rigorous than those applied to Australian crews.
The Department of Border Protection confirmed 18 of the 19 sailors on the OS 35 did not have proper clearance when discovered by Australian Border Force officers off the Queensland coast.
But according to the department, officers were "able to assess and process the group ahead of their arrival and all were granted MCVs by the time they anchored at Gladstone".
All of the 18 passed their rushed security checks, according to the department.
"Australian Border Force did not place any restrictions on the crew. The crew passports were inspected and returned to the ship," a spokesman said.
Once visas are approved, seafarers have the right to shore leave under international law.
ITF coordinator Dean Summers said the government's lax approach to these visas put Australia's borders at risk.
"Are ships whose entire crew do not have MCVs allowed to come alongside Australian ports?" he said.
"Is trade more important than national security?"
Mr Summers said the only way this ship's crew could have undergone a proper security check was if Australian officials were able to check information with their home country of Syria.
"I think the Syrian Government's hands are pretty full at the moment, and they don't have a relationship with the Australian Government."
The current Syrian Government is involved in a bloody conflict which has cost more than 100,000 lives.
A spokesman for the the department said officials may liaise with foreign governments when assessing visa applications.
He would not discuss this case specifically.
The most recent Queensland Ports guide (for Hay Point, updated January this year) says 96 hours notice please gentlemen - fair enough too. The last people on earth you'd consider truncating the process for would be a bunch of unknown Syrian "passport" holders.
Here's the reference to the Anchorage Sites at Dalrymple Bay
Now here's the vessel OS 35 - it's not been near Gladstone this year, she was steaming into Korea last night when I checked.
What is the ship's current position? Where is the ship located? OS 35 current position is 39.30217 N / 120.6718 E on Jul 27, 2016 at 16:28 UTC.
Vessel OS 35 (IMO: 9172399, MMSI: 572852210) is abulk carrier built in 1999 and currently sailing under the flag of Tuvalu. OS 35 has 171m length overall and beam of 28m. Her gross tonnage is 20947 tons. Below you can find more technical information, photos, AIS data and last 5 port calls of OS 35 detected by AIS.
I think this is potentially a very important story.
Keep in mind the TWU and their international mates are involved in campaigns to keep Australian crews on board vessels that come alongside Australian ports and that's been driving a bit of reporting like this. It doesn't make the report wrong, it's just something to keep in mind.
The idea that you could satisfactorily check 18 Mohammeds from Syria for security risks before offloading them in a provincial Queensland town within a few hours is ludicrous. Likewise that a vessel master would radio from within pilot range to say "I've got 18 Syrians with me without Visas, no dramas if I drop them off?" Who is Border Force going to ring up? ISIS, Assad or the mob that just beheaded the 12 year old boy?
So it really does count that we hear about stories like this one. And that they're accurate. A very good starting point would be the correct name of the "Lebanese flagged" vessel that's said to have landed 18 Syrians without papers and without notice.