The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is demanding that 20 seafarers stranded aboard the Hong Kong-flagged coal ship, Five Stars Fujian, be allowed to come ashore until a dispute is resolved.
The Chinese crew have been stuck aboard the ship for a month after the vessel’s owners disappeared without paying the worker’s wages or replenishing the ship’s supplies and food.
Both the ITF and the welfare agency – Mission to Seafarers – have been denied access to the ship, which is at anchorage off the coast of Gladstone. This is in contravention to international maritime law, the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code.
ITF Australia Acting Coordinator Matt Purcell said the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) was boarding the ship today with members of the Chinese Consulate.
“So far, the Australian taxpayer has been responsible for looking after the distressed crew because the owners cannot be located,” Mr Purcell said.
“This unfortunately is a common feature of international shipping, which is riddled with corruption and law breaking, because there is little to zero recourse, even when those ships are trading in Australian waters.
“If that vessel sails in the near future, without evidence that everything is above board, it would be a breach of the Maritime Labor Convention.
“The Federal Government needs to intervene today, get the crew landside, while a proper investigation is conducted and the crew are able to access the services they need. These are people, not political pawns.
“There are hundreds of qualified, unemployed Australian seafarers that are able to look after the ship in the meantime.”