14 sept 2019

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) banned two bulk carriers from Australian ports on September 11 for breaching “the most basic” rights of seafarers.

The Panama-flagged Fortune Genius in Gladstone and the Xing Jing Hai in Brisbane have been banned for a period of 12 months and 18 months respectively for failing to pay crew their wages in full and on time.

AMSA surveyors boarded the Fortune Genius in Gladstone after receiving a complaint via the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). AMSA’s investigation revealed the crew of the Fortune Genius had been deliberately under paid by the operator, New Fortune Genius Management, by about A$100,000 ($69,000) for the months of April to August.

The ship had been operating with two sets of wage accounts, one showing the amount of wages the crew should have been paid and the other showing what they had actually been paid. The ship was immediately detained.

On September 11, AMSA surveyors boarded the Hong Kong-flagged Xing Jing Hai in Brisbane following similar complaints from the ITF. The complaints related to unpaid crew wages, and the operator, Dalian Ocean Prosperity International Ship Management, has previously been warned over unpaid wages with a sister ship, the Xing Ning Hai. AMSA’s investigation revealed the crew of the Xing Jing Hai had been paid late for the months of May and June, while wages for July and August amounting to about A$140,000 were still outstanding.

In July 2018, AMSA detained sister ship Xing Ning Hai after it was discovered that crew were owed about A$215,000. It was an unprecedented amount for a ship caught in Australian waters. An investigation found the manning agent had failed to pass on the crew’s wages, and the operator committed to terminating its contract with the manning agent to ensure it would never happen again. The operator was issued with a once-off warning.

AMSA re-inspected the Xing Ning Hai in Port Kembla on September 11 after receiving new allegations from the ITF. The allegations were not substantiated, says AMSA. However the vessel will continue to be subjected to a heightened inspection regime due to the previous issues and the active ban against its sister ship, the Xing Jing Hai. Any further transgressions by Dalian Ocean Prosperity International Ship Management can expect a very robust response, says AMSA.

AMSA General Manager of Operations Allan Schwartz issued both ships with bans, preventing them from entering or approaching any Australian port – 12 months for the Fortune Genius and 18 months for the Xing Jing Hai.

“Failure to pay crew their wages in full and on time is a reprehensible breach of the Maritime Labour Convention and one that AMSA will not tolerate,” Schwartz said. “The operator of the Fortune Genius has acted in a dishonest and predatory fashion towards its seafarers, while the operator of the Xing Jing Hai has demonstrated a systemic failure to ensure its seafarers are paid properly.

Our powers to ban ships for breaches of international maritime regulations are clear, and these two operators will not make a profit in our waters on the back of modern day slave labor. Not on our watch.”

ITF assistant coordinator Matt Purcell said the Xing Jing Hai is in Brisbane to deliver clinker to Cement Australia, while the Xing Ning Hai is in Port Kembla to carry steel from Bluescope.

AMSA deserves to be commended for acting swiftly once issues are identified, but the current system relies on the efforts of ITF inspectors and whistle-blowers among ship crews to identify problems, meaning countless cases of exploitation are slipping through the gaps,” says Purcell. “Without the actions of the ITF, not one of these vessels would have been inspected, which is why so many companies think they can get away with rampant exploitation in Australian waters.”


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