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ITF: Fijian Shipowner "Shrank" Ferry into Different Regulatory Bracket

cadmunkey
Queen of Chilliwack in 2008, before her sale (Cadmunkey / CC BY SA 3.0)

Published Mar 31, 2021 9:56 PM by The Maritime Executive

The International Transport Workers' Federation has accused a Fijian shipowner of "shrinking" a ferry in order to evade safety requirements. 

ITF inspectors say that they've learned that Goundar Shipping Limited may have registered the ferry Lomaiviti Princess III with a length 46 feet shorter and a gross tonnage of about 2,400 tonnes lower than her previous registration in Canada, where she was known as the Queen of Chilliwack until BC Ferries sold her in 2015. 

Equasis records show the Lomaiviti Princess III with a registered gross tonnage of 5,011 tonnes. This appears to have fallen by nearly half upon her arrival in Fiji, where ITF-supplied records suggest she is registered as a vessel of 2,580 GT. Likewise, her length appears to have shrunk by 46 feet and her beam by a foot and a half. 

According to ITF, Fijian law has more stringent drydocking and crewing requirements for a vessel of the Queen of Chilliwack's size than for a vessel of the Lomaiviti Princess III's size. 

“Should this information be accurate, and we suspect it is, then this raises red flags for the ITF,” wrote ITF inspector Sarah Maguire in a message to Fiji’s maritime safety authority. “We believe this vessel and others in Goundar’s fleet are not operating safely, have not received dry dock, and are being operated by crew who are under-qualified. What this tip-off to the ITF has revealed is that Goundar Shipping’s wrongdoing may not be limited to its widespread exploitation of seafarers, but may also include potentially falsifying official safety documentation."

Filipino seafarers on Goundar's vessels have complained of unpaid wages, seizure of passports and credentials, inadequate food, excessive hours of work, expired fire extinguishers, overloading and at least one instance of broken radar and echo sounder equipment, according to local media. Fiji's Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission has stepped in on behalf of seven former crewmembers who have allegedly not been paid for their service. 

“If the information provided to the ITF is correct, then the lives of passengers and workers aboard these ferries are in serious danger. [Fiji] needs to immediately suspend Goundar Shipping’s licence to operate until a proper safety assessment can be carried out,” said the ITF's Maguire.