Australian immigration officials grilled over failure to pick up ‘Death Ship’ captain

Australian immigration officials grilled over failure to pick up ‘Death Ship’ captain

Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection came in for widespread criticism today at the senate in Canberra for its failure to keep tabs on the master of the so-called death ship.

Captain Venancio Salas was the master of the Japanese-controlled Sage Sagittarius, a bulk carrier that was the scene of three mysterious deaths in the space of a couple of months back in 2012. He was also one of the prime suspects.

It has turned out that the Filipino officer was working in Australian waters for around eight months after the deaths without capturing the attention of authorities.

It was local media that picked up the fact he had returned to Australia, at which point the Department of Border Protection finally served him with a subpoena in February as he arrived at the Port of Gladstone.

Labor senator Glenn Sterle asked: “Was there a red flag when this guy was in our ocean … and if not why not? I think someone [in the bureaucracy] was asleep at the wheel.”

Meanwhile, Greens senator Janet Rice questioned how many other unsavoury seafarers were freely travelling the Australian coast.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.

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