Authorities have placed a record three-year ban on a Panamian-flagged ship that prevents it from entering Australian ports.
The bulk carrier MV Maryam, which is owned by Aswan Shipping and registered in Panama, has been at the centre of ongoing concerns due to serious maintenance problems and poor treatment of its crew.
MV Maryam was detained at Port Kembla, New South Wales in February after an inspection by Australian authorities found dozens of serious safety, maintenance and crew welfare breaches. The ship then sailed to Brisbane, where it was again detained.
Twenty-three crew owed tens of thousands of dollars
According to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the 23 crew on board were owed tens of thousands of dollars in outstanding wages, while a lack of fuel had left the vessel without lighting, air-conditioning or power for refrigerators. Urgent supplies of fuel, food and drinking water were delivered to the desperate crew.
The ITF said the MV Maryam was now sailing to Vietnam to undertake repairs following the replacement of the remaining crew members.
“After more than three months in detention, with much of that time spent floating off Port Kembla and Brisbane, the remaining seafarers have finally been able to leave the vessel and fly home, with a replacement crew taking the bulk carrier for urgent repairs,” ITF Australia coordinator Ian Bray stated.
“The situation facing seafarers onboard was absolutely appalling, with the 23 crew members critically short of food, water, and fuel.
Contracts had expired and crew wanted to go home
“Many of the seafarers were working well past the expiry of their contracts, desperate to go home and owed thousands of dollars in unpaid income,” Bray said.
“The extremely poor state of maintenance was also highlighted when the vessel’s one remaining anchor broke free, resulting in Australian authorities having the crew sail 50 nautical miles offshore to reduce the risk of an engine failure causing the vessel to run aground.”
“The repatriated crew members have now confirmed that they are safely home and have offered their sincere thanks to everyone in Australia who was involved in assisting them.”
Second ship owned by same company also banned
The ban comes a month after a second bulk carrier owned by the same company was issued an 18-month ban for similar deficiencies after being detained by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority at Weipa, in far north Queensland.
Bray said the ITF welcomed the record ban imposed against Aswan Shipping, but warned that the significant abuses were becoming increasingly common in Australia’s maritime supply chains.
“Australia is one of the most significant users of shipping on earth, with thousands of vessels delivering Australia’s imports and exports – including containerised freight, resources, agricultural products, fuel, and manufactured goods,” Bray said.
“Unfortunately, the situation on these Aswan Shipping vessels is becoming common, with Australia’s maritime supply chains increasingly reliant on flag-of-convenience vessels, registered in notorious tax havens and crewed by exploited workers paid as little as $2 per hour.”