‘Horror ship’ detained in Australian port

Reports of crew bullying and poor work conditions led to Tintomara being detained in Australia. (Credit: Dietmar Hasenpusch)

Chemical tanker Tintomara sailed out of Gladstone, Australia, on 1 March with a new master at the helm, after allegations of crew abuse led to the ship being detained for three days. The Liberia-flagged vessel arrived from New Orleans in the US state of Louisiana on 23 February.

“We were doing a routine inspection,” a representative of Australian port state control body Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) told SAS. “Our inspectors went on board and crew said, ‘We are being harassed’.” Crew also alleged inadequate food provisions and underpayment of wages, she added.

From an initial inspection on 23 February, AMSA inspectors were satisfied that adequate provisions had been supplied and that crew had been paid correctly, although payment of wages appeared to be two weeks late. However, allegations of harassment at the hands of their captain and chief officer were later found by AMSA to be true.

Crew members alleged a culture of bullying, non-payment of overtime, long working hours, and losing weight because of the lack of food, according to reports. As more details emerged, local media dubbed Tintomara the “horror ship”.

One seafarer on board the ship was sent home to India because he was too distraught to return to the vessel, according to the local press after interviewing the 26 Filipino, Bangladeshi, and Indian crew members at the Mission to Seafarers centre at Gladstone Marina.

This is the highest-profile case of bullying reported in Australia since two crew deaths on board coal carrier Sage Sagittarius in 2012 resulted in a coroner’s inquest and senate inquiry.

AMSA told SAS that the chief officer of Tintomara was removed by the ship agent on the evening of 2 March and the master by a Maritime Labour Convention auditor appointed by the operator, following a re-inspection carried out on the evening of 4 March.

Ship agent Far East Management removed the chief officer, then the captain, from the tanker and on 26 February signed an International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) agreement before the ship sailed for Singapore.

The contract included an indemnity form saying no seafarers would be punished, banned from work, or further intimidated after taking action in Gladstone, the ITF reported. The shipowner, Laurin Maritime, was contacted by SAS for comment but no reply had been received by the time of writing.

Ship detentions for Maritime Labour Convention breaches have become monthly events in Australia. The AMSA monthly detention lists for 2017 show a total of 14 detentions from January to November.

The 2016 AMSA Port State Control Report noted a total of 133 complaints about living and working conditions on ships trading with Australia, mostly from the seafarers, the ITF, government agencies, seafarer welfare groups, and pilots.

Most of the complaints were about wages owing (48), food (40), contracts (14), hours of work (15), and repatriations (16). Bullying and harassment made up 11 of the 68 complaints that were substantiated.