Australian authorities have issued a record ban to Aswan Shipping, the owners of Panama-flagged bulk carrier MV Maryam, preventing the vessel from entering any Australian port for three years.
The ban comes in response to major safety and maintenance issues, along with crew welfare abuses, according to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).
The decision is being revealed just a month after a second bulk carrier owned by the Qatari shipping company was issued an 18-month ban for similar deficiencies after being detained by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority at Weipa, in far north Queensland.
The MV Maryam was detained in Port Kembla in February after an inspection identified dozens of serious safety, maintenance, and crew welfare breaches. The ITF said that the 23 seafarers onboard were owed tens of thousands of dollars in outstanding wages, while a lack of fuel had left the vessel without lighting, air-conditioning, or power for refrigerators. Urgent supplies of fuel, food and drinking water were delivered to the desperate crew.
As informed, the MV Maryam was now sailing to Vietnam to undertake urgent repairs following the replacement of the remaining crew members.
“After more than three months in detention, with much of that time spent floating off Port Kembla and Brisbane, the remaining seafarers have finally been able to leave the vessel and fly home, with a replacement crew taking the bulk carrier for urgent repairs,” ITF Australia coordinator Ian Bray said.
“The situation facing seafarers onboard was absolutely appalling, with the 23 crew members critically short of food, water, and fuel.”
“The extremely poor state of maintenance was also highlighted when the vessel’s one remaining anchor broke free, resulting in Australian authorities having the crew sail 50 nautical miles offshore to reduce the risk of an engine failure causing the vessel to run aground.“
The union said that the repatriated crew members confirmed that they are safely home.
“Unfortunately, the situation on these Aswan Shipping vessels is becoming increasingly common, with Australia’s maritime supply chains increasingly reliant on flag-of-convenience vessels, registered in notorious tax havens and crewed by exploited workers paid as little as $2 per hour,” Bray said.
“While the situation onboard the Maryam was particularly shocking — resulting in the crew resigning and seeking support from Australian authorities to be repatriated home — we are seeing a constant stream of similar cases in Australian ports.”
Bray called on the Australian Government to do more to crack down on these abuses, with more resources for inspections, tougher enforcement of Australian laws and the Maritime Labour Convention, and a tightening of the temporary license system for coastal shipping.
“The situation with these two vessels from Aswan Shipping isn’t a one-off, it’s a systemic feature of the deregulated global shipping industry which is seeing a race to the bottom when it comes to safety, maintenance, and the treatment of seafarers,” he concluded.