It's Not the Day of the Seafarer Anymore


By Wendy Laursen 2016-11-01 19:27:03

On June 25, the shipping industry celebrated the IMO's Day of the Seafarer. The day is designed to celebrate seafarers and let the world know how and why seafarers are indispensable. The campaign theme this year was: At Sea For All.

Since that day, however, a string of crew welfare incidents have demonstrated the challenges that the industry itself is facing in celebrating their indispensable crews.

In the latest incident, 18 men are reported to have been stuck on board an asphalt tanker in Baltimore Harbor for more than a month. According to the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), the shipowner Aeolus Compania Naviera is behind on paying for its lease on Newlead Granadino, based out of Malta, and behind on paying its crew. 

The ITF says some of the men on board have not been home in a year. “There’s 18 men on this ship. They’re hungry. They’re tired. They’re dirty. They want to get paid, and they want to go home,” said Barbara Shipley of the ITF. “I’ve been told they’re fishing off the side of the vessel.”

Unpaid Crew in Cardiff

The news of the Newlead Granadino follows closely on that of the Malta-registered Svetlana operated by Victoria Maritime Trading of Bulgaria. The vessel which had already been detained following a port state control inspection by Welsh Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has now been issued with a second detainable deficiency notice after it was discovered the crew had not been paid for many months.

“The state of the vessel is bad enough from a maintenance point of view,” said ITF inspector Tommy Molloy. “It is self-evident that no money is being spent on the basics and, as is usual with such shipowners, the crew are also not being paid.”

The MCA requested the ITF to aid the crew and assist with the calculation of owed wages. Molloy then discovered that since the crew had joined, only small, infrequent cash payments had been received. Molloy said that the wages were the lowest he had seen for a long time and were certainly below the minimum referred to in the Maritime Labour Convention. 

Unpaid Crews in Australia

In October, for the second time in as many months, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) detained a vessel over crew conditions. The Marshall Islands-registered bulk carrier Maratha Paramount was detained off Gladstone in central Queensland.

AMSA acted against the Indian-owned vessel after an inspection by the ITF which showed that the 22 Indian crew had not been paid for more than two months. The inspector also found the ship was poorly maintained, and the crew were running out of food. The vessel was chartered by Pacific Aluminium, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rio Tinto, to transport alumina from Gladstone to Newcastle.

It was the second time this year Rio Tinto has been linked to a foreign vessel detention involving unpaid crew. In August, AMSA detained the Hong Kong-owned Fujian Five Stars with a $10 million cargo of coal. It had been abandoned off Gladstone, along with its unpaid crew, for more than a month. The crew of 20 had insufficient food and had not been paid for five months.

Abandoned Crew in Scotland

In September, the Malaviya Seven and Malaviya Twenty made the news when it was revealed that the crews of the two Indian owned and flagged OSVs had been effectively abandoned by their owners after they were held in Aberdeen, Scotland, and Great Yarmouth, England.

In Aberdeen, a routine ITF inspection in June revealed wages were owing to the crew of the GOL Offshore owned, BP-chartered Malaviya Seven - 15 crew members had not been paid for at least four months. 

A follow-up inspection of sister ship, the Malaviya Twenty in Great Yarmouth, found a similar situation. In total, more than $250,000 was owed to current and former crew members, who were all from India.

Hanjin’s Crew Crisis

Hanjin’s financial crisis led to seafarers being left stranded at sea or in port over the last few months. At least a dozen vessels were detained or delayed, including the Hanjin Europe in Hamburg, the Hanjin Rome in Singapore and at least 10 ships in China.

The Mission to Seafarers’ Reverend Peter Smyth visited the Hanjin Vienna in Vancouver in September, a month after it had been originally scheduled to depart. Smyth brought them milk and bread. “They were lucky and got paid before the news of the bankruptcy broke,” he said. 

Little has been heard about the luck of other crews.

Mutiny in Indonesia

In August, a product tanker carrying 240,000 gallons of diesel was commandeered by her own crew and taken into Indonesian waters after a pay dispute. The Vier Harmoni’s crew claimed they have not been paid in a month when the undertook the action.

Bulker Crew Stranded of Georgia

In July, the crew of a bulker detained and scheduled for auction at Savannah, Georgia, were reported to have have not been able to leave the ship for months. Creditor Ray Capital contended that the Greek owners, NewLead Holdings, of the geared bulker Newlead Castellano had stopped paying a corporate bond and also allegedly had stopped paying the crew of 15. 

Seaman Guard Ohio

Last but not least, back in July, the crew of the Seaman Guard Ohio reached a landmark 1,000 days being held in India without pay.

The Revd Canon Ken Peters, Director of Justice and Public Affairs, The Mission to Seafarers, said at the time: “Yet again we are bringing to the attention of all, the fact that men tasked with protecting seafarers from pirate attack are themselves under attack.  

“The unwarranted detention of the crew of the Seaman Guard Ohio, in India, because of their possession of armaments used to defend against criminal violence, has dragged on for 1,000 days.” 

There is still no end in sight for the judicial process which has been subjected to adjournment after adjournment, delay after delay.  

Day of the Seafarer 2017

The campaign theme for the 2017 Day of the Seafarer is yet to be set. Perhaps At Sea For Pay would be a relevant choice.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.