04 April 2012

Australia visa row halts work on largest ever resources project

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Progress on the largest ever resources investment project in Australian history hinges upon a court decision regarding an ongoing Australia visa argument.

Australia visa

Allseas' pipe laying vessel, The Solitaire, is scheduled to begin work in November.

Energy giant Chevron's AU$43 billion (£28 billion) Gorgon gas project looks set to be effectively shut down in the midst of uncertainty surround Australia visa conditions which could cost one of the project's main contractors as much as AU$1 million (£640,000) a day.

Swiss contractor Allseas Construction had employed foreign crew members to lay piping to the gas project on Barrow Island using tourist and business visas which do not permit employment, as opposed to the correct 417 or 457 visa.

Allseas Construction claims it did this as its crewmembers were working offshore and therefore should not be subject to immigration legislation and complying with such legislation would require much higher rates of pay for the crew of its two pipe laying vessels, The Lorelay and The Solitaire.

While the legislation allows for foreign employees to work offshore, the legislation states that if workers touch piping which is connected to the Australian seabed, they would be in the migration zone and therefore in violation of Australian immigration laws and could legitimately be detained.

Reports that The Lorelay is already working offshore have intensified the situation; Allseas Construction has taken the Immigration Minister Chris Bowen to court in order to clear up and finalise the issues.

Allseas Construction barrister Richard Hooker claims that if the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship attempts to detain or prosecute its workers, Allseas, already behind schedule, will not be able to complete the job.

Withdrawing from the contract with Chevron, Mr Hooker argued, would cause significant damage to both the cost of the Gorgon project and the reputation of Allseas Construction.

"There will be commercial results on way or the other," said Mr Hooker.

"It would be tantamount to shutting down the operation, which costs AU$1 million a day."

The presiding judge has given both parties 35 days to present any further information before delivering his judgement.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people lodge their Australian visa application with the Australian High Commission

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