ITF urges Australian govt to allow coal ship crew ashore

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is demanding that 20 Chinese seafarers stranded aboard the Hong Kong-flagged coal ship, Five Star Fujian, off the coast of Gladstone, Queensland, be allowed to come ashore until a dispute is resolved, according to The Maritime Union of Australia.

The seafarers have been stuck aboard the 181,383 dwt Five Star Fujian for a month after the vessel’s owners disappeared without paying the workers’ wages or replenishing the ship’s supplies and food.

Both the ITF and Mission to Seafarers, a welfare agency, have been denied access to the vessel. According to the ITF, this is in contravention to international maritime law, the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) boarded the ship with members of the Chinese Consulate, on August 19, 2016, the ITF said.

“So far, the Australian taxpayer has been responsible for looking after the distressed crew because the owners cannot be located. This, unfortunately, is a common feature of international shipping, which is riddled with corruption and law breaking, because there is little to zero recourse, even when those ships are trading in Australian waters. If that vessel sails in the near future, without evidence that everything is above board, it would be a breach of the Maritime Labor Convention,” Matt Purcell, ITF Australia Acting Coordinator, said.

The Five Star Fujian’s crew have been receiving emergency supplies after they were abandoned by the vessel’s owner.

MUA said that the ship’s owner, Fujian Shipping, has failed to respond to any request from Australian maritime authorities.

The bulk carrier is loaded with around USD 40 million worth of coal it collected at the Port of Hay Point in Australia.

“The Federal Government needs to intervene today, get the crew landside, while a proper investigation is conducted and the crew are able to access the services they need. These are people, not political pawns,” Purcell added.

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