NSW Coroner finally starts inquest in 'Death Ship' deaths

A SPATE of mystery deaths aboard a bulk carrier dubbed the "death ship" will be examined by an inquest by the New South Wales Coroner.

In late 2012, two Filipino sailors were killed in Australian waters while aboard the Japanese Sage Sagittarius.

A spokesman for the coroner's court said Deputy Coroner Sharon Freund would conduct the inquest into the disappearance and suspected death of Cesar Plete Llanto and the death of Hector Collado from early next year.

The announcement follows a six-month investigation by APN into the two deaths.

It revealed Sagittarius owners NYK Line and managers Hachiuma Steamship blocked access to possible witnesses who it claimed were "already on vacation".

It also highlighted allegations of cruelty on board the ship shortly before the first death.

The Sagittarius is among the thousands of ships to visit the Queensland ports of Abbot Point and Gladstone in the past five years.

Hachiuma general affairs spokesman Naoya Miyasaka said the company would "continue to fully cooperate with authorities".

International Transport Workers' Federation's Australian coordinator Dean Summers first described the Sagittarius as a "death or murder ship" in late 2012.

"We are greatly relieved the NSW Coroner's Court agrees with us that these tragedies on board a foreign ship, carrying Australian cargo, need further investigation," Mr Summers said.

"Given the amount of conflicting, inconsistent and highly suspicious reports coming out of these two separate incidents, we are very keen to have a clearer picture of what actually happened.

He said the families of the two men would finally know their deaths were being properly investigated.

"This is a very positive step in the right direction," he said.

"One of the objectives of a coroner's inquest is to identify these incidents so they can be prevented in the future."

Mr Summers said the media exposure was a great thing given seafarers work in "an invisible industry".

Former Supreme Court solicitor turned Labor MP Graham Perrett, who called for an inquest earlier this month, said the decision was "long overdue".

Mr Perrett led the 2013 "crimes at sea" Federal Inquiry following the death of Brisbane woman Dianne Brimble aboard a cruise ship.

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