Stranded Vega Auriga Crew Get Flight Home

New Zealand newspaper - Bay of Plenty Times - is reporting that the crew that was stranded on the Vega Auriga (the notorious ship that was banned from Australian ports) has been sent home to the Philippines. In August the Maritime Union of Australia, the International Transport Workers' Federation and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority had all voiced concerns about the treatment of crew on Vega ships. 

By Ruth Keber

Eighteen Filipino crew members who were stranded on the Vega Auriga flew home to the Philippines last night.

They have been replaced by 13 crewmen from Romania.

The controversial ship has been docked at the Port of Tauranga since August 31 after being banned from Australia for three months.

An inspection on the ship's arrival at the Port of Tauranga found 14 issues, most of them have now been fixed.

The International Transport Workers Federation says the ship's owners, Vega Reederei, had paid the Filipino crew for the months of September and October on Tuesday before they were sent home. The union had been negotiating for the payment of wages after an earlier pay date was missed.

International Transport Workers Federation Graham Mclaren said on October 21, the vessel was inspected by officials on behalf of Liberia, which have contained the ship until the crew's wages had been sorted out. The ship carries a Liberian flag.

The crew, made up of a captain, engineers, naval officers, electricians and able seamen and cadets, were owed more than $100,000 for the two months.

The Port of Tauranga confirmed the company had kept up-to-date with payments to dock, paying the port more than $90,000.

Mr McLaren said the Romanian crew was aware of the payment problems the previous crew had encountered. Another two engineers were needed before the vessel could sail.

Maritime Branch President for Tauranga, Peter Harvey said the problems experienced by the crew of Vega Auriga were common in the shipping world.

"These sort of complaints come up every few months, a complaint over wages. I've done dozens of them. Once they are away on a ship in a foreign country and have a problem. Where do they go to get it resolved? That's the whole problem these seamen face, they are very vulnerable," Mr Harvey said.

Nautilus Shipping Agency's Belinda Snell, the representative for the owner's agent, said the owners were still trying to arrange the ship's next voyage.

The Vega Auriga's estimated departure date is November 20.

The owners of the Vega Auriga did not respond to emailed questions.

Earlier this year, 21 crew members serving on the Liberian-flagged vessel, Vega-Reederei, organised a picket line at the Port of Long Beach in California to protest their employer's failure to pay them for up to four months of back wages. The crew of mostly Filipino nationals also had to seek assistance from the International Transport Workers' Federation and support from dock workers belonging to the International Longshore & Warehouse Union.

Original article here.