Safety mismanagement tops Australian ship detentions

Credit: AMSA

Once again, for the eighth year running, poor implementation of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code dominates ship detentions in Australia.

Since 2010, most ships detained in Australia have failed to apply the ISM Code, according to the nation’s 2018 recently released Port State Control (PSC) Report.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority Authority (AMSA) recalled one case, where the vessel involved, the Thorco Luna, was banned from entering Australian ports. “The master and crew were not familiar with essential shipboard procedures relating to the safety of the ship over three separate inspections” AMSA commented.

Lack of knowledge and training in fire safety, emergency systems and life-saving appliances were next on the list, with breaches to the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) following close behind.

In 2018, AMSA received 177 complaints regarding crew conditions, mostly to do with wages, contracts, hours of work, food and catering, repatriation and bullying. Yet, records show a growing confidence in seafarers seeking help, making 75 complaints in 2018, almost double the 44 of the previous year.

The seafarers trade union, the International Transport Workers’ Federation, however, made up the majority of the complaints, totalling 39 on behalf of the crew, with welfare groups coming a close second on 31.

While the number of alleged MLC breaches confirmed in port has decreased significantly compared to 2017 (from 918 to 674), the number of detainable offenses has risen only slightly from 20 to 23 over the year.

In 2018, AMSA banned three repeat offenders from Australia’s shores. Two of these bans involved significant breaches of the MLC. These were the Liberian flagged MSC Kia Ora, which underpaid its crew; the previously mentioned Philippines flagged Thorco Luna, for significant ISM and Safety of Life at Sea Convention breaches, and the Hong Kong flagged Shandon Hai Wan could not berth in Australia for 12 months after deliberately underpaying their crew by AUD56,000 (USD39,000).

Overall, the Flag states with the highest detention rates were Panama, Liberia, Hong Kong, Marshall Islands, and Singapore.

While AMSA reported a slight increase in the detention rate of vessels to 5.5%, ship deficiencies, on the other hand, remain at record lows having steadily decreased over the last decade.

“It is also a strong indication that AMSA’s PSC regime is exerting a positive influence on the quality of ships arriving in Australia,” the report concluded.