Seafarers aboard the ship of shame MCP Kopenhagen return to Newcastle port today, secure in the knowledge that the Greek shipowners have signed an International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) agreement.
This agreement means that the crew of 17 Filipinos will see their pay rise to $US1600 ($1563) a month from $US1000 and their ongoing well-being on board protected from the abuse of negligent shipowners.
The MCP Kopenhagen, carrying 3,000 tonnes of the explosive ammonium nitrate has been off the coast of Newcastle since April 28.
The ship has drawn international attention after the crew raised serious human rights abuses through the provision of rotting food, lack of water, and sub-standard pay and conditions.
The MUA is engaged in ongoing discussions with the vessel charterers Orica relating to shipping matters undertaken by the company. Orica has expressed its ongoingcommitment to ensure that their fleet will be covered by ITF agreements.
ITF Inspector Matt Purcell said: "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."
MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith said: "The people of Newcastle have been placed at risk by a classic example 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. Unless these ships of shame are removed from our coast there will continue to be huge problems around safety, the environment and human rights."
"There is a need for shipping activities to be undertaken under the scrutiny of Australian regulation that provides a safer and more environmentally friendly set of circumstances for all in the community.
"We are keen to see Australian vessels in operation that ensure high safety andenvironmental standards as well as jobs for the people of Newcastle."
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. It's great to see that the Greek shipowners have come to their senses by signing an ITF agreement for this crew," Mr Williams said.