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Half of blacklisted Aswan fleet in hot water as Australia detains two ships

Australian maritime authorities have detained two vessels owned by a controversial Qatari shipping company for serious labour rights breaches just weeks after the crew on another of Aswan Trading and Contracting’s ships were driven to hunger strike off the coast of Kuwait.

The detentions mean that now half of the company’s fleet of six ships is out of operation. Aswan was blacklisted by shipping regulators in 2017 and its chairman remains wanted by Qatari law enforcement over many issues including non-payment of staff.

The Maryam was first detained on February 19 at Port Kembla, New South Wales by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) for 36 safety and crew welfare deficiencies. Once inspectors from the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) boarded the coal carrying ship on the morning of March 5, they found many more reasons the ship, with most supplies exhausted, needed to be blocked from leaving Australian waters.

Companies like Aswan should be fearful of the consequences of breaking our laws and violating the rights of seafarers

The Maryam is the second Aswan vessel to be detained by AMSA in the last month. The Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier Movers 3 was stopped in Weipa in Queensland three weeks ago. The vessel’s engine has such serious problems that authorities are blocking the ship from coming into Weipa’s inner harbour.

Aswan made headlines in January this year when 19 seafarers working aboard its Ula bulk carrier vessel undertook an urgent hunger strike in the port of Shuaiba, Kuwait. The seafarers had gone 14 months abandoned by the company at the time, now almost 17 months. Aswan owes seafarers aboard the Ula more than $410,000 in unpaid wages, as well as repatriation flights home.

“This company is a notorious offender of regulation responsibility and MLC compliance. Two of their ships are currently detained in Australia by AMSA and they have left one abandoned in Kuwait, along with its crew,” said Ian Bray, the ITF’s coordinator for Australia.

Bray said the federation wanted the company to pay owed wages and bonuses and honour the two crews’ contractual obligations – including repatriation of those who were over their contracts onboard.

“We want AMSA to enforce compliance of Australian laws, and the Maritime Labour Convention that Australia has ratified. Companies like Aswan should be fearful of the consequences of breaking our laws and violating the rights of seafarers,” Bray said.

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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