The Hong Kong owners of Five Stars Fujian have at last paid for much-needed supplies to the vessel, which has been detained by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) since August 12.

The crew members of the 2009-built 180,000dwt bulk carrier informed ITF inspectors they have not been paid for more than two months and basic food supplies were due to run out this week.

ITF Australia Assistant Coordinator Matt Purcell called it shameful conduct in Australian waters by a foreign owned and chartered vessel.

“For the owners to abandon their crew, virtually leaving them for dead, is beyond shocking. Even when they were being paid, the crew was barely receiving $2 an hour, which is well below international standards,” Purcell added.

Bulk Carrier Five Stars Fujian stranded off the Queensland coast

Under the present circumstances, the Five Stars Fujian, with its 20 Mainland Chinese crew will not be released until Five Stars Fujian Shipping fulfil other obligations, including the unpaid wages of the crew.

A staff member of AMSA said we believe that the owner of the vessel will address the outstanding issues that have led to breaches of the Maritime Labour Convention but added AMSA had not yet been advised of a timeframe for compliance.

Yesterday, the Hong Kong Shipowners Association issued an urgent appeal to the HKSAR Government through the Marine Department to come to the aid of the crew of the Hong Kong-registered capesize bulk carrier.

The Federal Court had originally detained the vessel in late July over commercial irregularities. The ship was subsequently released on August 10. But when inspectors of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority inspected the ship after its release it was discovered there was insufficient food on board and wages had not been paid. The vessel was rearrested on August 12 by AMSA due to breaches of the International Maritime Labour Convention.

In a press release issued at noon yesterday HKSOA said it was extremely concerned about the welfare of the seafarers on board the ship. It urged the Hong Kong Government through the Hong Kong Marine Department to provide all necessary assistance to the seafarers, who have effectively been abandoned by the owner of the ship, including the immediate supply of provisions and fuel, as well as the repatriation of the seafarers to their homes if requested by the seafarers.

HKSOA managing director, Arthur Bowring acknowledged that Hong Kong has not yet had ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention extended to it by China but insisted:

“There might not be a legal obligation for Hong Kong to provide such facilities, but there is an extremely strong moral and ethical obligation to do so. These seafarers must not be left abandoned without flag State support, especially from the world’s fourth largest flag State, one that has repeatedly promoted the quality of the ships flying its twin flags.”

Asked to respond to the appeal from HKSOA, the Hong Kong Marine Department issued the following statement:

The Marine Department was informed that a Hong Kong-registered vessel was detained in Australia on 12 August 2016 due to breaches of the Maritime Labour Convention including insufficient supply of food and fuel, and unpaid wages for its crew.

The MD has liaised with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and the ship manager immediately. It is understood that the local welfare organizations in Australia have earlier donated some provisions to the vessel to relieve the situation temporarily. The ship manager informed the MD that the vessel owner has also remitted money to a ship chandler in Australia on 16 August 2016 for relief of food supply on board. The MD is now following up with AMSA on ship detention case and the shipowner and manager on crew’s welfare issue including unpaid wages.

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Source: The Hong Kong Maritime Hub