Crew overboard subject to Australian police investigation

Livestock carrier Galloway Express, from which Filipino seafarer Arnel Gillo went missing in March 2018. Credit: Dietmar Hasenpusch

he International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has called for the Australian Federal Police to investigate the disappearance of another seafarer believed to have gone overboard en route to Australia.

Arnel Gillo, 46, went missing from livestock carrier Galloway Expressin the Flores Sea north of Timor in March.

The ITF took on the matter after Gillo’s sister contacted its Australian office seeking assistance and claiming the company had not responded to calls from his family. His death is now subject to a coronor's inquiry.

Sergeant Kieran Self of Queensland Police Service's media and PR unit confirmed that officers boarded the vessel when it arrived in Port of Townsville on 20 March. “Initial investigations indicate the man, a Filipino national, went overboard sometime between 12 and 13 March,” he said in a statement provided to Fairplay sister title Safety at Sea. “Officers from QPS [Queensland Police Service] and the Australian Border Force conducted investigations [that] included a search of the vessel. Investigations are ongoing, with no suspicious circumstance identified at this time.”

A detailed report is being prepared for the North Queensland coroner, Self added.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) also inspected the vessel when it arrived in Port of Townsville on 10 March. “AMSA found no crew welfare issues with Galloway Express upon its arrival in Australia,” its representative told SAS.

The ITF, however, insists that the Australian Federal Police, not just state police, need to investigate this incident “as a matter of urgency”, given its experience following the high-profile case of Sage Sagittarius in 2012 in which three men died. At the time, a coronor's inquest found at least two were victims of foul play.

The coroner involved in the Sage Sagittarius case recommended establishing a permanent standing group, with members from state and federal police, AMSA, and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, in connection with any investigation into a death or disappearance on board an international vessel in or bound for Australian waters.

Galloway Express is owned by Dutch company Vroon and registered in Singapore. It was on charter to Australia’s Harmony Agriculture and Food Company. SAS has contacted Vroon and the Australian Federal Police for comment.

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