The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) applauds the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s decision to ban the containership, Vega Auriga, from Australian ports for three months for repeated breaches of seafarer welfare and ship maintenance.
The Liberian flagged Vega Auriga was a serial offender when it came to safety and seafarer welfare and had been detained at Australian ports three times since July last year, according to AMSA.
ITF President and Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said he hoped the move was an indication of how new AMSA chief executive Mick Kinley intended to lead the safety regulator.
“This is the first time the full force of the Maritime Labour Convention has been used in Australia and AMSA should be congratulated for taking this stand to protect the welfare of seafarers and for setting a good example for other countries to follow,” Mr Crumlin said.
“AMSA has been very focused on implementation of the MLC and has worked with the entire maritime community in Australia - including the ITF and unions - to ensure seafarers’ safety and wellbeing under the new convention.
“I think the Australian public would be shocked to see the conditions many international seafarers are forced to endure.
“ITF inspectors have seen environments aboard these flag-of-convenience ships, that are freely plying the Australian international shipping trade, that are not fit for human habitation.
“Some international crews have had to live only off the fish they have caught themselves, while working 12 hour days, seven days a week for months, sometimes years on end, away from their families for an unbelievably meagre wage.
“These are the kind of conditions we will see more frequently if the Abbott Government is able to deregulate the coastal shipping trade.”
The Abbott Government has signaled its intention to unravel Cabotage and the Navigation Act 2012, which would allow FOC ships - vessels registered in countries with substandard rules and conditions for seafarers – where workers can be paid less than $2 per hour.
ITF Australia coordinator Dean Summers said AMSA is to be congratulated for their stand against Vega ships.
“The ITF have been battling Vega around the world in trying to get crew's wages paid on time,” Mr Summers said.
“It is unfortunate that in 2014 crews are still being starved, underpaid and exploited but if ship owners are allowed to register their ships wherever they want to save a couple of dollars, they are always going to be allowed to get away with this sort of behaviour.”
He said the third party operator - Mediterranean Shipping Company, which is one of the world’s biggest shipping companies - needed to vet their chartered fleet more carefully to protect their name.
“The ITF had repeatedly warned MSC of these and other breaches but the European-based fleet operator had refused to accept their responsibilities.”