For the third time in a year, Australian officials have banned a ship from operating in their waters and visiting their ports over labor contract violations. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said the bulker was being banned after its inspectors have found repeated violations by the Singapore-based ship management company Bright Star Shipmanagement.
AMSA inspected the 37,000 dwt bulker Western Callao when it arrived at Port Adelaide on September 6 and immediately issued a detention order on the vessel for multiple breaches of the Maritime Labour Convention. The vessel was later permitted to move to Brisbane to carry out a crew change and after the violations were resolved and AMSA was satisfied that the crew had been paid back wages they permitted the ship to depart. Now that the vessel is on its way to Indonesia, it has been banned from returning to Australian ports for six months.
This latest incident began when AMSA received a complaint regarding the underpayment of seafarers and repatriation issues. During the inspection, AMSA found evidence that the employment agreement with the 13 seafarers on board the ship had not been met, and that the seafarers were collectively owed approximately A$40,000 (US$29,000). AMSA also found evidence that the seafarers had been on board for over 12 months, despite ongoing commitments to repatriate the seafarers at the end of their original nine-month contracts.
AMSA’s Executive Director of Operations, Michael Drake, noted that it was not the first time this company, Bright Star Shipmanagement, had been caught in breach of the MLC. “In July 2020, AMSA inspected the Western Callao in Port Kembla, NSW, finding that eight seafarers had been on board for more than 11 months. Another company ship, the Furness Southern Cross, was found to have 10 seafarers on board for more than 14 months,” Drake said.
Australia has been one of the most visible authorities seeking to enforce labor contracts and ensure good working conditions for seafarers. After detaining another bulker, the Movers 3, for nearly two months, AMSA in April 2021 banned the vessel for 18 due to poor maintenance, safety issues, and poor working conditions for the crew. After detaining another bulker from the same operator for over three and a half months in the spring, AMSA issued a ban for 36 months against the bulker Maryam also for safety violations and poor working conditions for the crew.
“Australia has zero tolerance for the underpayment of crew. This type of behavior is unethical and in complete contravention to the Maritime Labour Convention. The international conventions that protect seafarers’ rights are very clear,” said Drake. “Ships visiting Australian ports are on notice that if we find deliberate underpaying of crew and attempts to deceive authorities, they can expect penalties.”
The Western Callao became the twenty-fifth ship to banned from Australia since 2014 according to data from AMSA. Five vessels were banned in 2020 after having ranged between two and three vessels in prior years.
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