Australia Imposes 12-Month Ban on Bulker for Crew Wages and Welfare

Australia banned a bulker for 12 months due to crew wage and welfare issues
(photo courtesy of AMSA)

By The Maritime Executive 07-30-2020 03:00:46

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) imposed a 12-month ban on a bulk carrier after discovering a broad range of crew welfare issues including wage exploitation. This marked the second action by AMSA in a matter of days and the sixteenth ship to be banned since 2014 mostly due to failing to pay seafarers and observe contracts.

Inspectors from AMSA boarded the 93,000 DWT Liberian flagged bulker TW Hamburg on July 24 in Gladstone, Australia after reportedly receiving correspondence about a range of problems aboard the vessel. AMSA was also assisted by the International Transport Workers' Federation. During the inspection, AMSA reported that it found expired employment agreements and incomplete repatriation requests. The inspectors were also approached by seafarers who claimed they had been underpaid.

AMSA collected evidence that confirmed that the crew was owned approximately AUD $42,000 (US$30,000). In addition, they reported that crew members were found to have duplicate seafarer employment agreements with a 25 percent difference in wages between the two agreements. The crew was reportedly being paid the lower amount based on the agreements. 

The inspectors also found other crew welfare issues including the quantity and quality of food provided was deemed to be well below the standards required by the Maritime Labor Convention. The galley and fridges were filthy and the ship had very poor overall hygiene practices according to the inspectors. 

AMSA Acting General Manager Operations Michael Drake said that the range of issues uncovered aboard the TW Hamburg constituted a serious breach of the Maritime Labor Convention, which upholds the rights of seafarers to decent working conditions.

“Taking financial advantage and mistreating seafarers in this way is nothing short of exploitation by people in powerful positions,” Drake said. “The majority of industry operators do the right thing by their seafarers, but for the few who do not, consider this a reminder that you will be held accountable."

Before the vessel departed from Australia, AMSA reports that the seafarers seeking reparation and refusing to work under those conditions left the ship. They came ashore to be repatriated to their home countries. AMSA also confirmed that all of the seafarers were paid their outstanding wages.

The TW Hamburg departed Gladstone on July 29 bound for China. AMSA says that the ship will not be permitted to approach or enter an Australian port before July 29, 2021.

“AMSA has banned 16 ships from Australian ports since 2014, the majority for failing to pay seafarers their wages on time and in full,” said Drake. “Earlier this week we banned Agia Sofia for this and Fortune Genius and Xing Jing Hai were both banned in September 2019 for collectively owing their seafarers AUD $240,000 (US$172,000). Any ship that arrives in Australia under such conditions can expect the same treatment. We will not tolerate the exploitation of seafarers in our waters.”