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Calls for coronial inquest after death at sea

A Japanese ship was forced to stop in Mackay yesterday so crew members could seek medical treatment after a 26-year-old Filipino sailor died from a "sore throat".

The young seafarer died at sea en route to Gladstone, and his crew mates were allegedly denied medical treatment for two weeks, in what an expert has said adds to the growing issue with flag of convenience shipping in Australia.

International Transport Workers Federation Australia national co-ordinator Dean Summers said he was saddened to hear of the tragic death of the young man.

"One of the worst features of the Panamanian flag of convenience is there will be no real inquiry into this man's death," Summers said.

Flag of convenience ships are owned by companies who register them in third world countries to avoid scrutiny of poor operating and working conditions.

There is currently a senate inquiry into FOC shipping, including an investigation into three suspicious deaths on board the Panama-flagged Sage Sagittarius in 2012.

"Here is a healthy young man; you have to have a medical to get on board, he has a sore throat in China," Mr Summers said of the latest tragedy.

"He was apparently diagnosed with tonsillitis… and on December 19 has died on board this ship on its way to pick up a cargo of coal from Queensland."

Nine of the surviving crew complained of similar symptoms, but were allegedly told they would need to pay $500 each to see a doctor in the first port of Gladstone.

"These seafarers are paid so little they do not have $500 to pay for a medical out of their own money, which by law must be provided free by the shipping company," Summers said.

The ship continued from Gladstone to Mackay, where the ITF fought for the seafarers to receive medical treatment.

The ITF is calling for a coronial inquest into the seafarer's death. His body has been taken to Rockhampton for an autopsy.

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