12 FEB 2019

A crewmember on board a ship at a BHP terminal in Queensland, Australia, has claimed that the crew is being starved and underpaid, according to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

A seafarer from the 80,000-ton bulk carrier, the Liberia-flagged Villa Deste, contacted the ITF pleading for help, claiming to have no food and no onboard wages, and being fed on a $4 food budget per day.

The ITF claims that BHP is blocking its requests to inspect the vessel, currently at anchor at BHP’s Hay Point Coal Terminal in Mackay.

ITF national coordinator Dean Summers, says: “BHP told media today that the vessel was not chartered by the company, but it’s BHP coal being sold and loaded onto the Ville Deste. To now claim that they have no responsibility for the conditions on board this vessel when they arrive at their port, to load their coal, demonstrates an extraordinary failure to uphold basic ethical standards in their global supply chain.

ITF inspectors along with faith-based welfare providers have rights to access ships clearly defined in the international maritime security code and Australia’s national security legislation. BHP claim to have a process for access, but continue to refuse our requests and question our legitimate right of entry,” he said.

The ITF has previously contacted the Department of Home Affairs about BHP’s denial of grant access for ITF inspectors to inspect ships at Hay Point. The Department stated that approval to access a port facility is the responsibility of the port facility operator.

By dismissing the ITF’s concerns the Department of Home Affairs either unknowingly, or by design, has sided with BHP to even further isolate and abuse seafarers’ rights,” said Summers.

“The plight of these seafarers, and the failure by BHP to take responsibility for their welfare, highlights why it is essential that ITF inspectors are provided access through BHP’s terminal. ITF needs to ensure the seafarers are fed, their wages are paid and appropriate human rights conditions are in place.”

However, in a statement to The Australian the Greek ship operator Evalend Shipping rejected the allegations:We have immediately contacted the master of the vessel Villa Deste …“[The] master has obtained a written statement from all crew on-board that they are very happy with the company and the vessel… Therefore we categorically reject any kind of such allegations and we have serious doubts that any one from the crew has contacted the [union].”

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