Australia Issues its Longest Ship Ban Ever for "Systemic" Violations

Australia bans unseaworthy bulker with substandard crew welfare
Bulker Maryam received the longest ban ever issued by Australia (ITF photo)

Published May 28, 2021 5:30 PM by The Maritime Executive

After one of the longest detentions of a foreign ship in Australian waters, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) issued a 36-month ban from Australia for the Panama-flagged bulk carrier, Maryam due to what it called the “unprecedented” circumstances of the situation. It is the longest ban ever issued by AMSA, twice the length of a ban placed on the other vessel owned by the same Qatari company, reflecting the serious deficiencies relating to vessel maintenance and working and living conditions for seafarers.

“The length of the banning reflects the seriousness of the operator’s failures to manage the welfare of its seafarers and the standard of maintenance of its ships,” said AMSA Executive Director, Operations Allan Schwartz. “Over the last few months AMSA and other parties involved in this situation, have had to drag Aswan Shipping to the table to resolve the systemic failures on its ships. Aswan Shipping has been conspicuous in its absence throughout the detention of Maryam and Movers 3. This has been beyond disappointing.”

The 17-year-old dry bulk carrier, Maryam was detained in Port Kembla, Australia on February 19, 2021, after AMSA inspected identified numerous deficiencies. AMSA reported a total of 36 deficiencies aboard the 97,045 dwt vessel. They said there were problems with its engines and that it had defective generators that resulted in a lack of power, no electricity, or air conditioning onboard. Living conditions aboard the vessel were reported to be in breach of the Maritime Labor Convention. Other issues included lifeboat steering and the public announcement system speakers.

By the end of March, AMSA reported that only a third of the deficiencies had been rectified, including the issues with the lifeboats and ventilation, while the ship was awaiting parts to complete repairs on its generators.

Schwartz said the detention of the Maryam was protracted because subsequent issues arose with the ship as the months dragged by. The classification society also conducted an inspection focused on crew welfare on behalf of the flag state and in mid-April reported that it had identified inconsistencies with crew contracts. Similar issues were also found aboard the company's other ship under detention in Australia.

While the owners continued to make progress on the repairs aboard the Maryam, in late April 12 of the 23 crew requested to be repatriated. AMSA permitted the ship to be relocated from a berth to an anchorage at Port Kembla after the deficiencies with the generators were resolved and while the ship’s owners completed the repatriation while providing a replacement crew.

“Disenfranchised with the operator’s continued reluctance to meet its most basic obligations to maintain its ships and provide decent working and living conditions for crew, roughly half of Maryam’s original crew demanded repatriation,” said Schwartz. “On May 28, that finally happened off Brisbane, with 10 of the original crew being replaced with fresh crew who had recently completed quarantine in Queensland.” 

AIS appears to show that the vessel has departed Australia, which would be consistent with AMSA issuing the ban concurrent with clearing the deficiencies and departing.

Not only did Australia deemed this vessel to be unseaworthy, but just days later on March 4, a second ship, the Movers 3, owned by the same Qatari company, was also detained in Weipa, Queensland for unacceptable conditions. That vessel remained under detention until its issues were rectified. The Movers 3 was released on April 29, 2021, and AMSA immediately issued an 18-month ban for that vessel.

Schwartz said AMSA bans vessels as a last resort, only using bans when other actions are not delivering the required deterrent or behavioral changes. According to AMSA, bans “send an unambiguous message to the industry that AMSA does not accept sub-standard ships in Australian waters. The consequences for bringing sub-standard ships like Movers 3 and Maryam to Australia are both financially and reputationally costly,” said Schwartz.

AMSA said that if any of Aswan Shipping’s vessels enter Australian waters they will be closely monitored and subjected to more frequent inspections as a result of the systemic failures AMSA found on these two vessels.