Jian Seng ghost ship affair brings criticism of Australian government

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Criticism was targeted to Government efforts in the affair of the Jian Seng in the Australian Senate March 28 and 29 over the handling of the ghost ship, the tanker Jian Seng, which was found abandoned and unlit in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Senator Joe Ludwig (Labor, Queensland) asked of the Minister for Justice and Customs Senator Chris Ellison in Question Time whether he stood by his claim that he made yesterday that the discovery of the Jian Seng demonstrated that the Australian Government had in place "aerial and maritime surveillance to intercept a vessel in these circumstances, and that was done", and asked why it took the Government two weeks to intercept the vessel after it entered Australian waters. Senator Ellison responded that at the vessel's first sighting on March 8 "it was not doing anything illegal", and criticised the Opposition's claim that the ship was drifting for seventeen days, saying that "it was not stated as having drifted for the whole of the 17 days". Ludwig went on to note that it was not Customs that spotted the ship but a "passing Australian barge", but Ellison had defended this, stating that Ludwig "thinks that commercial vessels have absolutely no role in looking out for Australia" and that Ellison will "rely on reports to our hotline and go out and inspect vessels".

Later, Senator Kerry O'Brien (Labor, Tasmania) criticised the Government's implementation of coastal defense, and highlighted the dangers of ignoring the ship for seventeen days, saying that "it posed and possibly still poses unknown environmental and quarantine risks" and that the Jian Seng "has been refused admission to Weipa harbour...It could have been carrying literally anything. It could have been carrying chemicals. It could have been carrying guns".

Senator David Johnston (Liberal, Western Australia) went on to debate that there are no shipping lanes in the area where the Jian Seng was found, and that devoting resources to a harmless ship would leave gaps in the coastal defenses elsewhere.

Sources

Wikinews
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  • Australian Senate Hansard, March 28, 2006.
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