A Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier has been banned from Australian ports over “appalling” working and living conditions on board, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said.
The 235-meter Movers 3, operated by Qatari-based Aswan Shipping, was detained at anchor off Weipa in far north Queensland on March 4, 2021 due to several mechanical and survey issues, and for the poor conditions on board. Outstanding issues, namely the replacement of poorly maintained ballast tank head vents and the updated ship surveys, were resolved after a lengthy port State control detention AMSA said.
On April 29, AMSA released Movers 3 from detention and immediately issued it with a ban, prohibiting it from entering an Australian port for 18 months.
AMSA deputy CEO, Sachi Wimmer, said Aswan Shipping had shown a complete disregard for its obligations to provide decent working and living conditions for its seafarers, and had not ensured its ships were maintained so they were safe for the crew and Australia’s marine environment.
“Aswan Shipping’s neglect has resulted in a difficult two months for the seafarers on Movers 3, let alone the effort required by many organizations to support them during this time,” Wimmer said.
“We are holding Aswan Shipping accountable, it needs to step up and fulfil its obligations as a ship owner and operate responsibly if it wants to trade in Australian ports in the future.”
“The banning of Movers 3 should serve as a stark reminder to the maritime industry that AMSA will not tolerate or accept substandard ships in Australian waters,” Wimmer said.
“A banning constitutes more than just a disruption to shipping schedules, it comes at great financial and reputational loss to the companies associated with these ships.
“Ship operators like Aswan Shipping are not welcome in Australian waters.”
Wimmer said various parties had assisted where Aswan Shipping failed to act, organizing food and welfare support for the impacted seafarers.
The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), which called for Australia to ban Aswan Shipping’s vessels, said the vessel’s freezers have been broken, forcing crew to discard meat and other food. The refrigeration situation, although finally resolved, had put considerable pressure on the ship’s cook, who resigned and asked to be repatriated to Turkey. He was taken off the vessel in March.
According to the ITF, the remaining crew, who are a mix of Turkish and Jordanian nationals, have each been on the vessel for between three and six months. The mariners are concerned that Aswan may be withholding their promised bonuses as the company continues to ignore its crew aboard another of its vessels, Ula, in Kuwait, and fails to pay basic diesel bills in Port Kembla. The ITF said it is still establishing the extent of potential labor breaches by Aswan towards the crew onboard Movers 3.
ITF said the most immediate concern for the crew is a lack of fresh water and food. According to reports, Rio Tinto paid for and provided two small truckloads of provisions valued at about AU $3000. The need for emergency provisions funded by a mineral giant suggests Aswan has major cashflow problems, ITF said.
Another of Aswan Shipping’s ships, the coal carrier Maryam, is still under detention in Port Kembla for similar issues after being inspected by AMSA on February 19, 2021. for 36 safety and crew welfare deficiencies.
Aswan was blacklisted by shipping regulators in 2017 and its chairman remains wanted by Qatari law enforcement.