The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) imposed a
12-month ban on a bulk carrier after discovering a broad range of crew welfare
issues including wage exploitation. This marked the second action by AMSA in a
matter of days and the sixteenth ship to be banned since 2014 mostly due to
failing to pay seafarers and observe contracts.
Inspectors from AMSA boarded the 93,000 DWT Liberian flagged
bulker TW Hamburg on July 24 in Gladstone, Australia after reportedly receiving
correspondence about a range of problems aboard the vessel. AMSA was also
assisted by the International Transport Workers' Federation. During the
inspection, AMSA reported that it found expired employment agreements and
incomplete repatriation requests. The inspectors were also approached by
seafarers who claimed they had been underpaid.
AMSA collected evidence that confirmed that the crew was
owned approximately AUD $42,000 (US$30,000). In addition, they reported that
crew members were found to have duplicate seafarer employment agreements with a
25 percent difference in wages between the two agreements. The crew was reportedly
being paid the lower amount based on the agreements.
The inspectors also found other crew welfare issues
including the quantity and quality of food provided was deemed to be well below
the standards required by the Maritime Labor Convention. The galley and fridges
were filthy and the ship had very poor overall hygiene practices according to
AMSA Acting General Manager Operations Michael Drake said
that the range of issues uncovered aboard the TW Hamburg constituted a serious
breach of the Maritime Labor Convention, which upholds the rights of seafarers
to decent working conditions.
“Taking financial advantage and mistreating seafarers in
this way is nothing short of exploitation by people in powerful positions,”
Drake said. “The majority of industry operators do the right thing by their
seafarers, but for the few who do not, consider this a reminder that you will
be held accountable."
Before the vessel departed from Australia, AMSA reports that
the seafarers seeking reparation and refusing to work under those conditions
left the ship. They came ashore to be repatriated to their home countries. AMSA
also confirmed that all of the seafarers were paid their outstanding wages.
The TW Hamburg departed Gladstone on July 29 bound for
China. AMSA says that the ship will not be permitted to approach or enter an
Australian port before July 29, 2021.
“AMSA has banned 16 ships from Australian ports since 2014,
the majority for failing to pay seafarers their wages on time and in full,” said
Drake. “Earlier this week we banned Agia Sofia for this and Fortune Genius and
Xing Jing Hai were both banned in September 2019 for collectively owing their
seafarers AUD $240,000 (US$172,000). Any ship that arrives in Australia under
such conditions can expect the same treatment. We will not tolerate the
exploitation of seafarers in our waters.”