German-Owned Bulk Carrier Detained in Australia Over MLC Breaches

Mike Schuler
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March 27, 2019

The Liberian-flagged bulk carrier Anna-Elisabeth. Photo: ITF

Australian authorities have detained the Liberian-registered bulk carrier Anna-Elisabeth has been detained after its crew complained of insufficient food, bullying, and denial of shore leave, the International Transport Workers’ Federation reported Thursday.

The ITF said it received the complaints on Monday, March 25, as the German-owned ship was berthed at the Port Kembla Coal Terminal.

ITF national coordinator, Dean Summers, went on board the vessel to investigate. “Meat and fish were freezer burnt and fresh provisions were very low, certainly not enough to get 17 seafarers to Singapore. It is our suspicion that this company is under intense financial pressure and have sought to save money wherever they can. The master confirmed the food ration was $7 per day for all meals,” said Summers.

Inspectors were also surprised to see that the company had a new crew category of “Deck Rider” on their crew list, which the ITF said immediately red-flagged the qualifications of all of the crew.

Due to the findings, Summers requested that Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) inspect the vessel, citing shore leave, lack of provisions, bullying and concern about minimum safe manning and crew qualifications.

“We asked AMSA to confirm that the crew were qualified and safe to take the ship to sea. We have reports that this has become a major problem for this company now,” said Summers.

The ship was not permitted to sail by AMSA at the scheduled 6:00pm on Monday 25 March. AMSA inspectors boarded the ship Tuesday 26 March where a detailed inspection continued throughout the day. The vessel was eventually detained by AMSA under the Maritime Labour Convention.

The Liberian register is reportedly sending a representative to the ship to work with the master and owners to rectify the long list of deficiencies.

The German owners, Johann MK Blumenthal, are notoriously anti-union and have a reputation for confrontation, says the ITF.

“We are asking the Australian Government to send an urgent alert around the shipping world to audit and detain Blumenthal ships wherever breaches to human rights and workers’ rights are found. Clearly, the only thing these belly robbers understand is cost and profit,” said Summers.

“In recent weeks, ITF inspectors in Europe have uncovered other cases of food shortages on Blumenthal vessels. So right now, Blumenthal is a priority for the ITF, and we will continue to inspect their vessels in ports around the world to ensure that more than 700 seafarers across their fleet aren’t subjected to these exploitative practices,” concluded Summers.

The ITF says the incident marks the is the latest example of Flags of Convenience (FoC) shipping in the Australian domestic trade. FoC ships have grown to dominate the Australian coastal trade and are at the centre of a dispute between maritime unions and BHP and BlueScope after the companies replaced the last two Australian-crewed bulk ships with foreign seafarers on FoC conditions.

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