Australia bans bulker for mistreating seafarers

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has banned the Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier Unison Jasper from Australian ports for six months.

Illustration. Image by AMSA

The 36,300 dwt vessel has remained alongside in the Port of Newcastle, under detention, since 25 July 2020 for breaches to the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).

As explained, the breaches related to the operation of several sets of wage accounts and multiple conflicting seafarer employment agreements. AMSA also found insufficient quantity and variety of food on board and an ineffective complaints procedure.

On 31 July 2020, eleven crew members exercised their right to leave the ship and entered into quarantine arrangements in Sydney so they could be repatriated to their own country.

The ship has remained under detention in Newcastle because there were not enough crew onboard to sail the ship safely. The operator, Taiwanese company Unison Marine Corporation, has now organised replacement crew from overseas, which has allowed the ship to meet its minimum crewing requirements and depart.

General Manager Operations Allan Schwartz said the lengthy detention of the ship had no doubt been an extremely costly exercise in non-compliance for the ship’s operator. The decision to ban the Unison Jasper was the result of a combination of factors and systemic failings by the operator, and the ship resulting in serious breaches of the Maritime Labour Convention.

“Our decision to ban Unison Jasper reflects our zero tolerance for the mistreatment of seafarers,” Schwartz said.

“We are sending a simple message to operators: Pay your crew properly, treat them respectfully, and comply with the requirements of the Maritime Labour Convention or you will not be welcome in Australia.”

“Seafarers are making enormous sacrifices right now by being away for extended periods of time from their loved ones, just to keep critical global trade moving. To respond to that sacrifice by depriving seafarers of their rightful wages which they and their loved ones back home depend on, is completely unacceptable,” he pointed out.

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“We do not tolerate this in Australian waters and Unison Jasper is now the fifth ship in the last 12 months to be banned by AMSA for failing to pay seafarers their wages in full and on time.”

Australia is signatory to the MLC, and the banning of the Unison Jasper along with AMSA’s banning of four ships within the last 12 months, is said to signify the importance that Australia places in the welfare and wellbeing of seafarers.