In an unprecedented move, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has today banned two bulk carriers from Australian ports for breaching the most basic rights of seafarers.
Panama registered 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 – a gross breach of the Maritime Labour Convention.
On Thursday, 5 September AMSA surveyors boarded the Fortune Genius in Gladstone after receiving a complaint via the International Transport Workers’ Federation.
AMSA’s investigation revealed the crew of the Fortune Genius had been deliberately under paid by the operator, New Fortune Genius Management, by about AUD $100,000 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 Wednesday, 11 September AMSA surveyors boarded the Xing Jing Hai in Brisbane following similar complaints from the International Transport Workers’ Federation.
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 (see background over page).
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 AUD $140,000 were still outstanding.
AMSA General Manager of Operations Allan Schwartz issued both ships with bans today, preventing them from entering or approaching an 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,' Mr 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 labour.
Not on our watch.'
Background: Xing Ning Hai
In July 2018, AMSA detained the Xing Ning Hai on behalf of the flag State in Devonport, Tasmania after it was discovered that crew were owed about AUD $215,000. It was an unprecedented amount for a ship caught in Australian waters. The ship was subjected to an investigation by the flag State and monitored closely by AMSA.
The 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 noting it was their obligation to ensure the crew were paid and that AMSA would act if further non-compliance was found with any other ship that it operated. All of the operator’s ships would be subject to additional scrutiny by AMSA if they called at an Australian port, it was warned.
Coincidentally, AMSA re-inspected the Xing Ning Hai in Port Kembla on Wednesday, 11 September (same day as the Xing Jing Hai was detained in Brisbane) after receiving new allegations from the International Transport Workers’ Federation.
These new allegations against the Xing Ning Hai were not substantiated, however it will continue to be subjected to a heightened inspection regime noting its previous issues in 2018 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 from AMSA.