Food, water and wages are being denied to crew onboard a Panama-flagged bulker berthed in western Australia, and the seafarers may not have enough stores with which to return home.
The crew, which comprises nationals from Ukraine and Indonesia, met yesterday with a volunteer inspector from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) to complain about conditions onboard the handysize bulk carrier Apellis (33,300 dwt, built 2010). The vessel is owned and managed by Greece’s Pyrsos Shipping.
Matt Purcell, ITF’s assistant national coordinator in Australia, has called on the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to detain the ship under the Maritime Labor Convention (MLC).
“The person we sent up the gangway was distressed by what he saw and said the crew were fearful of repercussions,” Purcell told press.
“Food and water is being rationed, which as well as being an outright contravention of MLC, it’s also inhumane.
“We have one crewmember, the steward on $200-a-month, another the, chief engineer, claims he hasn’t received a single cent in eight months. The majority of the crew just want to go home to their families after their ordeal.
“There is also a concern that there is not enough stores to sustain the crew on their scheduled voyage to Indonesia.”
Earlier this week, another Greek-owned, Panama-flagged bulker, the San Nikolas (28,322 dwt, built 1996), was found to have insufficient food and no potable water onboard when it berthed in Newcastle, Australia. The ship is owned and managed by Greece’s Athenian Shipping, according to Equasis.
A spokesperson for the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) said the San Nikolas was “riddled with deficiencies” and he had “grave concerns for the ongoing welfare of the Filipino crew”.
“In an already shady industry there’s a further race-to-the-bottom as international freight rates drop,” said ITF president Paddy Crumlin. “Therefore we get these greedy ship owners and operators trying to save a buck by withholding pay and in the worst case scenarios, rationing food.”
Crumlin said he was worried there would be an increase in these incidents of exploitation in Australian waters. The country’s government, led by prime minister Tony Abbott, is moving towards a relaxation of its cabotage law, through amendments to the Coastal Trading Act.
“Abbott has to ask himself whether he is okay with this, because this is what he is recommending for the domestic shipping industry – a complete free-for-all,” the ITF president continued.