Pyrsos Shipping bulk carrier MV Apellis is being detained at Western Australia’s Esperance wheat port over a suspected breach of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), which found that food provisions were inadequate and seafarers had not been paid according to their contracts, is detaining the vessel until its owners clear wage arrears.
An AMSA surveyor boarded the Panamanian-flagged vessel at the grain jetty after a tip-off from the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF).
Food and water was being rationed on the ship and its Indonesian and Ukrainian crew were afraid to speak out, said Matt Purcell, ITF Australia assistant national co-ordinator.
“The Indonesian crew, to a man, want their pay and they want out,” he told IHS Maritime.
The chief engineer said he had received no pay for eight months, according to the ITF.
AMSA has also investigated conditions onboard San Nikolas, a 17,542 gt Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier en route to Port Kembla and Melbourne from Newcastle.
Maritime Union of Australia Newcastle branch secretary Glenn Williams told IHS Maritime he had inspected the ship and raised the alarm.
“There wasn’t much food onboard and they are being paid appalling wages,” he said. “We let it sail to Kembla.”
AMSA boarded the vessel and told it to restock in Melbourne before a further inspection when it reaches Adelaide.
“In an already shady industry there’s a further race to the bottom as international freight rates drop,” ITF President Paddy Crumlin said in a press release on 11 September.
He warned that incidents of exploitation would rise as the Australian Government further relaxes shipping regulation through amendments to the Coastal Trading Act.
Yet Shipping Australia CEO Rod Nairn described the ITF’s linkage of abuse to shipping legislation as “just wrong in fact and wrong in principle”.
He further accused the ITF of using a distressing incident to mislead the public.
The proposed bill now before a Senate inquiry would require any ship operating on the Australian coast to be subject to stringent port state inspections and checks, he said in a release.
The MV Apellis’s detention comes as the ITF London maritime co-ordinator prepares to release the latest data on the MLC’s second year in operation at the International Shipping Conference in London.
In 2014, the ITF found MLC breaches on 2,755 vessels, or 36% of all vessels inspected.