The MV Galloway Express remains docked at the Port of Townsville while investigations continue. (ABC North Queensland: Tom Edwards)
A man has gone missing at sea on board a live cattle export ship en route to Townsville in north Queensland, triggering an investigation into possible foul play.
The man, believed to be from the Philippines, went missing from the MV Galloway Express on March 13, but the family were not told for several days afterwards.
The ship is owned by Dutch company Vroon and was chartered by Harmony Agriculture, which sends cattle overseas under the name Phoenix Exports.
International Transport Workers Federation (ITWF) spokesman Dean Summers said the organisation immediately began investigations into the incident once informed by the family.
Mr Summers contacted the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) to confirm the incident had occurred.
“We had talked to the Australian authorities — we didn’t get any information other than to confirm that there had been a man lost over the side,” Mr Summers said.
“There is conflicting information — there are suspicious circumstances we understand — and the company refused, according to the family, to update or to talk to the family about their missing loved one.”
Union frustrated by delay
Mr Summers said the delegation from the ITWF was frustrated by the length of time taken before they were allowed to board the ship in Townsville.
He said the ITWF had called on Australian Federal Police to intervene in the case, saying Queensland police might not have correct jurisdiction to investigate on the Singaporean-flagged carrier.
“There’s a language problem, there’s a cultural problem … we’re convinced [the Queensland Police Service] don’t know the situation on board the ship,” he said.
AMSA confirms man overboard report
An AMSA spokesperson said in a statement it was aware of the report of a man overboard.
The Galloway Express is a regular visitor to Australian waters, carrying live cattle to Asia. (ABC: Carl Curtain)
“AMSA was advised by the ship’s master on March 14, 2018 that this occurred en route to Australia on March 13, 2018,” the spokesperson said.
“At the time, the ship was outside Australian waters [in the Flores Sea, north of Timor].
“A search was carried out by local authorities but was later suspended after no signs of the missing person were found.”
The spokesperson said the ship arrived in the Port of Townsville on March 20, where AMSA understood Queensland police and Australian Border Force (ABF) officers attended the ship upon its arrival.
“ABF conducted routine ‘first port boarding’ procedures and assisted QPS with a vessel search,” the spokesperson said.
“AMSA will attend the ship today to conduct an unrelated livestock pre-loading inspection and check on the crew’s welfare.”
The ABC has also contacted police and Vroon for comment.