Dodgy Flag-of-Convenience (FOC) Highlights Need for Better Regulation

A foreign ship riddled with deficiencies is being allowed to sail unimpeded in Australian waters, despite allegations of crew mistreatment and underpayment.

The revelations come at the same time the Abbott Government is defending its attempts to allow the same kind dodgy foreign ships onto domestic shipping routes.

The Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier, the San Nikolas, was found in Newcastle with insufficient food and no potable water.

The ship was inspected yesterday by Maritime Union of Australia Newcastle Branch Secretary Glen Williams, who said he had grave concerns for the ongoing welfare of the Filipino crew.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority slapped the ship with a host of deficiencies in Brisbane last week before the ship was inspected in Newcastle. It is currently en route to Port Kembla.

Mr Williams said his inspection yesterday found there was no fresh fruit and that there was only one medium sized pot of soup on the stove for dinner for the 24 crewmembers.

He said the crew was being rationed water and if they required more they had to pay. In addition, Mr Williams discovered the ship’s payroll (available upon request) that shows chronic underpayment of wages.

“The crew aren’t even receiving the International Labor Organization minimum, which is already pretty paltry at approximately $2-an-hour,” he said.

“We discovered a trainee seafarer on $425-a-month. And for that he works 12 – 14 hour shifts, seven-days-a-week, for the privilege of being away from his family for a year.

“This kind of treatment is atrocious anywhere, but there is certainly no place for it in Australian waters.”

The Abbott Government is attempting to dismantle the Coastal Trading Act, which dictates that ships trading between Australian ports must be crewed by Australian workers, or pay Australian award wages.

The amendment to the Act was inserted into May’s Budget papers but is yet to be debated in Parliament after it was sent to a Senate Inquiry, which commenced yesterday.

Mr Williams said if the amendments were passed there would be an increase in these kind of horrific incidents.

“Abbott wants a race to the bottom under the guise of ‘competition’, well this is not competition, this is exploitation and Australian workers shouldn’t and cannot be expected to compete in these conditions.”

A MUA Southern New South Wales Branch Official will inspect the vessel tomorrow upon its arrival.