Towage company Svitzer is preparing to ship out two of its tug boats contaminated with potentially deadly asbestos from Newcastle.
The two tugs were removed from service in February after one of the Chinese-built vessels was found to contain asbestos.
The Australian crews of The Warrego and The Warrunda first raised the alarm several months ago when they found suspicious white dust on board the Chinese made vessels.
Independent testing detected more than 90 areas of asbestos borne dust on the tugs. Both tugs were given Asbestos Free Certificates in Singapore before entering Australian waters.
The Maritime Union of Australia is calling for federal authorities to stop the two tugs from leaving Newcastle.
MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray said foreign workers should not be exposed to a known killer.
“Given it is illegal to import asbestos into Australia, you really have to question why anyone is allowed to export it,” Mr Bray said.
“The MUA does not think these tugs should be sent anywhere without a guarantee that they will not be worked by any crew until the asbestos has been removed.”
“The tugs are going overseas, we think to be repaired by the same people that wrongfully gave the Asbestos Free Certificates,” MUA Deputy Newcastle Branch Secretary Dennis Outram said.
“It’s negligent to allow these tugs to go back to Singapore where a worker there could contract a killer asbestos-related disease,” he added.