Crew forced to work up to 16 hours a day or no pay

Caption: Crew on bulker C Summit were forced to work 14-16 hours a day in a closed hatch, according to testimony at public hearing. Credit: Malte Schwarz

Cambodian seafarers on board the Korean owned C Summit were forced to work 14-16 hours a day in a closed hatch, according to testimony before a Queensland State inquiry in Australia.

Sarah Maguire, full-time inspector for the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) told the Inquiry into a sustainable Queensland intrastate shipping industry public hearing in Gladstone on 18 March that crew were subjected to the long work hours in a closed hatch for weeks.

“They did not know whether it was daytime or night-time.  It gets worse, because these seafarers were fed on rations depending on how the captain thought they had performed for the day,” she said.

“If the captain thought they did not hold their weight or they did not do enough work, they got no food,” Maguire, who is a former seafarer, testified.

Maguire said the water on board the bulk carrier (since decommissioned) was yellow and undrinkable.

“To top it all off, the crew had two sets of books on board,” she said. “That means that they had an agreement, a seafarers’ employment agreement, that the captain showed me, and then they had their actual agreement, which were the wages that were being paid. We see this often.”

The C Summit was one of five examples of crew exploitation cited by the ITF on the day.

In its submission to the inquiry, the union highlighted widespread use of foreign shipping and exploited crew along the entire Queensland coast.

The Great Barrier Reef is home to modern day slavery, the report stated. Over worked, fatigued crew also expose the World Heritage site to environmental damage.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) detention lists show that the C Summit was detained for a day in 20 August, 2015, after a government inspector found “crew had multiple/confusing Seafarer Employment Agreements (SEA) onboard.”

“Seafarers were not being paid in accordance with available SEA,” according to AMSA records.

The bulk carrier was released the next day after all wages owed were paid.

Inquiry hearings run until 25 March, with a report on the regional economic development and labour market benefits of Australian coastal shipping due in May.