Melbourne: A small wooden boat reportedly carrying asylum-seekers from Vietnam has been sighted off the Australian coast in a failure of the country's tight surveillance of its northern seas, a media report said on Tuesday.
Crew working for oil and gas producer Modec spotted the boat within 500m of their floating oil tanker, about 150km from the Dampier coast, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
Australia has a strict immigration and asylum policy which sees it turn boats back to Indonesia. It also sends asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea for long-term detention.
A spokesperson of Modec said the numbers could not be confirmed and passengers appeared to be in good health.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose policies have stemmed the flow of asylum-seekers by turning them around -- refused to discuss the vessel.
"We do not comment on operational matters on the water," he told reporters in Canberra when asked whether his government was negotiating with Vietnam to return the boat.
A spokesperson for Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton also said the government did not comment on operational matters.
Western Australian premier Colin Barnett said it was always concerning when asylum seeker boats got close to shore, but the matter was under control.
"The West Australian police is looking after that situation until the Commonwealth naval vessel arrives, so the situation is in order," he said, adding?"This boat, while it's approaching our coast, it's well offshore and it's under surveillance."