Australia bars two ships from ports for USD165,000 in wage theft

Fortune Genius. Credit: Capt, Michail/Marine Traffic

Australian port state control banned two bulk carriers from Australian ports on Friday 13 September after uncovering a total of AUD240,000 (USD165,000) in wage theft.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) described the bans as “unprecedented” and “a gross breach of the Maritime Labour Convention”.

Both vessels – the Panama-registered Fortune Genius and the Xing Jing Hai were detained last week. Both inspections came after tip-offs from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

AMSA confirmed the crew on the Fortune Genius had been deliberately underpaid by the operator, New Fortune Genius Management, by about AUD100,000 (USD68,000).

Seafarers on the Xing Jing Hai were paid late for May and June, while AUD140,000 (USD95,000) in wages for July and August was also still outstanding.

AMSA promptly banned the Fortune Genius from Australian ports for 12 months and the Xing Jing Hai for 18 months, because of its previous record of underpaying crew.

“Failure to pay crew their wages in full and on time is a reprehensible breach of the Maritime Labour Convention and one that AMSA will not tolerate,” General Manager Allan Schwartz said.

“The operator of the Fortune Genius has acted in a dishonest and predatory fashion towards its seafarers while the operator of the Xing Jing Hai has demonstrated a systemic failure to ensure its seafarers are paid properly.

“Our powers to ban ships for breaches of international maritime regulations are clear,” he added. “These two operators will not make a profit in our waters on the back of modern day slave labour.”

Meanwhile, the ITF report crew on a third vessel, sister ship MV Xing Ning Hai, also reported that they had not been paid since June and were owed more than AUD100,000 (USD68,000).

The crew were not paid for three months until Thursday evening, last week, according to the ITF.

“We had people on board Friday and Saturday,” an ITF spokesperson told SAS, “We required bank receipts as evidence of payment. All documentation was confirmed by the crew [on Saturday] and they thanked the ITF for our assistance.”

AMSA was satisfied with papers showing the crew had been paid in full. However, it issued the ship with a number of unrelated deficiencies regarding record keeping and cleanliness of common facilities to be rectified before sailing.

The vessel will be subjected to a heightened inspection regime owing to its previous failure to pay the crew and the active ban against its sister ship, the Xing Jing Hai.

In July 2018 AMSA detained the Xing Ning Hai in Devonport, Tasmania, after uncovering wage theft of AUD215,000 (USD146,000) – an unprecedented amount in Australian waters.

AMSA warned that any further transgressions by Dalian Ocean Prosperity International Ship Management would be met with “a very robust response”.

ITF President Paddy Crumlin said that the spate of ship detentions exposed rampant exploitation of seafarers.

“It is not an anomaly, but a central feature of the business models of many shipping operators,” he said. “Too many big businesses refuse to take responsibility for exploitation in their supply chains.”