The owners of a Japanese car carrier that docked at the Port of Melbourne recently are not getting away with what is clearly crew exploitation after it was discovered that a number of the seafarers on the Panamanian-flagged Metis Leader had been working aboard the vessel in excess of the 11 months.
At the time of the ship’s arrest, it was discovered that five of the seafarers were on the verge of 12 months working aboard, two had been aboard for 14 months, and three for more than 15 months, including the ship’s captain.
“What has happened here could give rise to a situation of forced labour,” said International Transport Workers’ Federation assistant coordinator for Australia, Matt Purcell
“The company tried to block us from coming aboard the ship and putting an end to them keeping these seafarers against their will,” he said.
Purcell said the ship owner’s agents tried to use Covid-19 as an excuse to stop him coming aboard, despite the fact that on the same day Victoria had recorded just two new cases from a population of almost five million people.
“Following the detention of the vessel by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority at our urging, five crew will be repatriated from Melbourne to the Philippines, including the captain and a number of engineers. The ship is not permitted to leave port until the company gets these tired and fatigued seafarers home and replaced by fresh crew,” said Purcell.
The just-in-time nature of importing new vehicles meant the shipping company would be losing upwards of US $100 000 per day as the vessel lay idle in the waters surrounding Melbourne, he added.