WHEN two men died aboard the Japanese-owned Sage Sagittarius - now dubbed the "death ship" - the 25-strong Filipino crew was fed for less than $10 a day.

The ship was bound for a New South Wales port where it would collect a shipment of coal worth more than $10 million.

Chief cook Cesar Llanto vanished from the ship as it headed south through the Coral Sea off the central Queensland coast on August 30, 2012.


Chief engineer Hector Collado fell to his death two weeks later as the Sagittarius arrived at the Port of Newcastle.

The two fatalities in Australian waters were the subject of an inquest this week by the New South Wales coroner.

The scrutiny follows a major investigation by Australian Regional Media, the publisher of this website.

Before adjourning on Friday, the court heard from ship captain Venancio Salas Jr who said the crew's monthly food budget was "about $6000".

This equates to $8 per day in food for each of the 25 crew members.


Aboard the death ship: An Australian Regional Media investigation
Aboard the death ship: An Australian Regional Media investigation

At the time of Mr Llanto's death, the ship was en route to collect a load of coal worth about $9.8 million based on coal prices at the time.

The deaths are being described as "highly suspicious" by counsel assisting Philip Strickland.

The court heard there were "contact marks" near where Mr Llanto is thought to have disappeared overboard.


Forensic pathologist Dr Brian Beer said Mr Collado's autopsy showed he had suffered a cut to his skull moments before his death.

Dr Beer said there was no obvious way for him to have been struck accidentally at the scene.

Earlier in the inquest, the court heard crew members had accused Capt Salas of physically attacking a homosexual kitchen hand or "mess man" named Jessie Martinez and running a gun-selling racket.

Mr Llanto allowed the young kitchen hand - who was a close colleague - to use his laptop to draft a formal complaint about the captain to Australian authorities.

Capt Salas learned this on the morning of Mr Llanto's disappearance.

If delivered, the complaint would likely have sparked an investigation of the captain and his ship by Australian police, maritime authorities and the International Transport Workers' Federation.

On Friday, Capt Salas said he did not bother to read the complaint letter, nor was he worried that Mr Llanto's laptop was used.

Executive Kazuhiro Hayashi from Sagittarius owners Hachiuma Steamship was expected to give evidence on Friday afternoon.

Mr Hayashi boarded the ship from Brisbane with colleague Kosaku Monji and a security team after Mr Llanto's disappearance.

Mr Monji would be the third man to die aboard the ship, crushed to death by conveyor belt machinery after it returned to Japan.

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