Fears Grow For Foreign Seafarers On “Merkur Sky”

There are growing concerns for the welfare of Filipino and Burmese crew aboard the Flag of Convenience (FOC) "Merkur Sky", owned by German company Vinnen FA.

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) completed a routine inspection of the vessel earlier this week in the port of Fremantle, which exposed ship's safety issues and raised concerns for the crew's welfare.

The ITF subsequently received a series of text and phone messages from a distressed crew claiming bullying and physical abuse at the hands of the Polish master and German officers.

"We have complained to the Charterer Mediterranean Shipping Company and will hold them responsible for hiring a ship whose owners mistreat and exploit international seafarers." said Dean Summers National Coordinator for the ITF in Australia.

ITF inspectors, along with the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), tried to board the vessel in Melbourne today but were denied access by the ship's master who said that crew conditions were dictated from the owners in Germany and is no business of Australian organisations.

The master then produced a form signed by every member of the crew claiming there were no problems on board.

"This is a very old and alarming scam whereby crew are marshaled on board, forced to sign statements and threatened against speaking with the ITF," said Mr Summers.

"The Maritime Labor Convention - soon to be in force - should go a long way to protecting seafarers from employers like these German rogues.

"However, Australian authorities must develop a reliable system to receive and investigate complaints in order to expose breaches such as these."   

The ITF will today request a suspension of the federal governments granting of coastal trading permits to this company until these allegations have been fully investigated.

Media Contact:

Dean Summers (ITF Australia): 0419 934 648

Darrin Barnett (MUA National): 0428 119 703