ITF Agreement For MCP Kopenhagen Long Overdue

Seafarers and unions are celebrating after the Greek shipowners of the MCP Kopenhagen signed an International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) agreement late last week.

This means that the crew of 17 will have their pay rise to $US1600 ($1563) a month from $US1000.

It will also ensure that standards on the vessel are raised and basic provisions such as water are underpinned by an agreement that seeks to assure the well-being of the crew.

The MCP Kopenhagen, carrying 3,000 tonnes of the explosive ammonium nitrate from the Kooragang Island Orica plant, is currently off the coast of Newcastle.

The ship has drawn international attention after the crew raised serious concerns for their welfare through the provision of rotting food and sub-standard pay and conditions for the Filipino crew on board.

The operation of the MCP Kopenhagen has concerned members of the local community in Newcastle following a number of safety incidents involving Orica - which had chartered the ship - in recent months.

A range of matters relating to Orica's shipping task were discussed with senior management of the company in Sydney last week. There will be ongoing meetings between the MUA and Orica in coming weeks.

Orica has expressed its ongoing commitment to ensure that their fleet will be covered by ITF agreements.

In line with that anouncement, a certificate has been signed confirming that the vessel has been signed to PNO TCC effective from May 2.

"This is a significant victory in these circumstances. When the vessel comes alongside, the ITF can check on new contracts for all crew and they now must conform to ITF Standards," ITF Inspector Matt Purcell said.

This is not the first time Orica has run into considerable problems with FOC shipping.

"Clearly Orica needs to scrutinise their shipping activities more closely," MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith said.

"The company has been put at risk by a classic example of the typical problems of Flag of Convenience shipping, where the shipper has no idea of what ships they are chartering, and the ships are often of dubious quality.

"The owners, managers and agents, spread across different continents, deny responsibility and blame each other."

MUA Newcastle Branch Secretary Glen Williams said it was a big win for the seafarers on board.

"When the ITF went on board the conditions were amongst the worst ever seen," Mr Williams said.

"It's great to see that the Greek shipowners have come to their senses by signing an ITF agreement for this crew."