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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21850

Ms George asked the Minister for Transport and Regional Services, upon notice, on 12 August 2003:

(1) How many South Pacific Nations have foreign owned shipping registries and can he list the countries and the number of ships that sail under flags of convenience.

(2) Can he confirm whether any Tongan flagged vessels have been caught ferrying weapons and explosives.

(3) Can he confirm reports that the United States Navy is prepared to stop and search, if necessary, any of the 62 ships flying Tongan flags; if so, is he able to say what led them to this decision.

(4) Can he confirm reports that businesses associated with Osama bin Laden control a multi-million dollar flag of convenience shipping operation; if so, can he provide any advice that he has received to that effect.

(5) Are “ships of shame” and their crews potentially vulnerable to terrorist activities.

(6) In light of increasing terrorist activity in the Asia-Pacific region, has the Government given consideration to more stringent inspections of ships registered by Australia's South Pacific neighbours; if not, why not.

Mr Anderson (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The Australian Government is not privy to the details of other sovereign national shipping registries. However it is public knowledge that various shipping registers allow ships owned by overseas shipowners to be registered.

(2) No, my Department is unable to confirm this.

(3) No, my Department is unable to confirm these reports.

(4) No, my Department is unable to confirm these reports.

(5) All ships are potentially susceptible to terrorist attacks.

(6) The Australian Government does not discriminate against ships on the basis of the flag as it would be contrary to international obligations under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.