Asbestos boards a ferry into Sydney Harbour
In the last week of August 2020, news broke that asbestos was found on ferries in Newcastle that were destined for Sydney Harbour. The asbestos was found in gaskets during an inspection, but the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Sydney Branch has been concerned about asbestos in the ferries before they even arrived. The ferries were constructed in China, Singapore and Indonesia and had arrived in NSW from Indonesia.
Paul Garret, MUA Sydney Assistant Secretary says:
“For some 18 months now, the MUA has warned both the NSW Government and Transdev Sydney Ferries about our concerns that asbestos-containing material was going to be used in these vessels. However, Transdev Sydney Ferries has allowed a process that has seen the new vessels built with taxpayer money using asbestos containing materials.”
The MUA has also called for a report on the asbestos on the ferries to be released and an independent inspection. The MUA has advised its members not to board the ferries until further notice.
Asbestos has been banned in Australia since 2003, how did it end up on ferries in NSW?
Asbestos is still mined, manufactured and traded in some countries, including Indonesia. Indonesia imports over 100,000 tonnes of raw asbestos each year for use in cement roof sheeting, friction products and other items.
As long as asbestos is being used overseas, it will continue to be illegally imported into Australia. This isn’t the first time that Australian workers have been at risk from asbestos exposure in illegal imports; in 2017 CFMEU members in Perth were exposed to asbestos in imported ceiling sheets. In fact, dozens of illegal imports are stopped at the border each year.
What can you do?
Join the Campaign to Ban Asbestos
We are building a movement of people in Australia to join with unionists and campaigners across South East Asia to support their struggle to ban asbestos and eliminate asbestos-related diseases. We want to secure an asbestos-free future because as long as asbestos is being used anywhere, it remains a risk everywhere.