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‘The abandonment of seafarers is abhorrent’: HKSOA’s Bowring

The Hong Kong Shipowners’ Association (HKSOA) says it “extremely concerned” about the seafarers on the Five Stars Fujian.

The Hong Kong-registered capesize bulk carrier is presently under detention by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) off the port of Gladstone for breaches of the Maritime Labour Convention relating to lack of provisions and unpaid wages.

Reports carried on this site have indicated that the owner of the ship is suffering economic difficulties, and is reportedly unable to pay the crew or reprovision the ship.

The HKSOA, while recognising that Hong Kong has not yet had ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention extended to it by China, is urging the Hong Kong government through the Hong Kong Marine Department to provide all necessary assistance to the seafarers, who have effectively been abandoned by the owner of the ship, including the immediate supply of provisions and fuel, as well as the repatriation of the seafarers to their homes if requested by the seafarers.

Arthur Bowring, the managing director of the association, said in a release: “These seafarers must not be left abandoned without flag state support, especially from the world’s fourth largest flag State, one that has repeatedly promoted the quality of the ships flying its twin flags.”

Speaking separately with Splash today Bowring admitted he was “angry” about the growing volume of cases of crew abandonment, many of which have been highlighted on this site in recent months.

Bowring is the spokesperson for the maritime employers in the ILO as well as the vice chairman of the Special Tripartite Committee (STC).

The first meeting of the STC agreed the 2014 amendments to the MLC, which incorporate financial security for abandoned seafarers. The amendments will come into effect in January next year.

“This issue is uppermost in my mind, and honestly and perhaps depressingly we did expect an increasing number of abandonments in these dire markets,” Bowring told Splash.

The HKSOA executive also chairs the Labour Affairs Committee of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which works closely with the ITF and ILO to address every instance of abandonment, by contacting flag states and owners to put pressure on to provide food and essential supplies to the seafarers and to repatriate the seafarers if this is requested.

“The abandonment of seafarers is abhorrent, and this association and I personally will do everything we can to ensure that abandoned seafarers are properly cared for, the flag states to be made to realise that they also have an obligation to the ships that fly their flag and the seafarers that serve on the ships, and for the owners to be identified and, where possible, be made to realise that their actions are irresponsible and unacceptable,” Bowring said.

Speaking with Splash last week the Reverend Ken Peters from the UK charity Mission to Seafarers said: “Seafarers are the easy target for reducing costs but inflicting such punitive measures on the innocent and ignoring their plight is unconscionable. Such behaviour is unacceptable and the shipping industry ought to speak out about those who, in attempts to maintain their other trades, sacrifice individual ships to uphold their business.”

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Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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