A foreign crew in Mackay has been denied basic rights such as access to food and has been forced to work without pay.
One crewmember aboard the Korean bulk carrier, the C. Summit, was found to have malnutrition and a further four have since left the ship claiming they feared for their lives.
The shocking accusations have been substantiated by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), following an inspection of the vessel early this morning. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority will join the ITF in a further inspection this afternoon.
ITF Assistant National Coordinator Matt Purcell said the crew, a mix of Cambodians and Burmese, had been subject to the worst kind of bullying he had encountered.
“We have discovered two contracts, one contract was the one the workers signed prior to boarding and the other, which doesn’t meet even the most basic international standards, was signed shortly after the crew joined the ship,” Mr Purcell said.
“The crew claim they have received no wages for several months and are forced to do jobs outside of their requirements.
“They have been locked in hatches and have survived on what I can only describe as a starvation diet.”
The vessel, owned by Korea-based Chang Myung Shipping Co, is a repeat offender in that deficiencies have been noted by a number of different port state control areas. The ship was found to be breaching labour standards in Denmark as recently as November last year.
The ship visits Australia, mainly Hay Point and Newcastle ports, a couple of times a year.
ITF President Paddy Crumlin said although this ship was an extreme example of crew abuses, many ships calling into Australian ports had dodgy records when it came to safety, pollution and crew welfare.
“The sea is a largely unregulated environment whereby greedy ship owners and operators are allowed to get away with egregious breaches of human rights and the Australian Government is regularly turning a blind eye to the breaches happening in our waters,” Mr Crumlin said.
“Further to that, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss seems to want these awful breaches to increase by wiping out the Australian merchant navy fleet through complete deregulation.
“Mr Truss has to understand that opening up Australia’s shipping industry so it can ‘compete’ with the lowest common denominator is consenting to these kind of human rights violations.”
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.