Chinese seafarers aboard the Stolt Kikyo tanker — which berthed in Devonport early this morning — are owed wages for two months and have not received coastal trading payments required under Australian law, according to an investigation by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).
ITF assistant national coordinator Matt Purcell today met with the crew of the vessel — owned by global shipping giant Stolt-Nielsen Limited — where it was revealed they were owed approximately $250,000 in wages.
The ITF could find no evidence that the crew had been paid correctly for the past two months.
The ship is now moored a short distance from the Australian-manned Alexander Spirit, which has remained in Devonport for more than a week after the crew were sacked, to be replaced with cheap foreign workers on $2 per hour.
Mr Purcell said the Stolt Kikyo, which is registered in the impoverished West African nation of Liberia, is operating under a ‘flag of convenience’ to avoid tax, stricter regulations and Australian employment standards.
“The twenty-four Chinese seafarers on board appear to have been denied more than two months wages, and have also been robbed of the coastal payments they are entitled to under the coastal trading permit,” Mr Purcell said.
“After meeting with the crew, the ITF calculates that at least $250,000 is owed to them.
“Global shipping is big business, delivering massive profits to the corporations that dominate it, yet increasingly these profits are being generated through the exploitation of seafarers from developing nations.
“This tanker is trading in Australian waters, servicing Australian ports, while utilising the cheapest international crews, all on an Australian government license.
“Those facts make it even more abhorrent that these seafarers are being treated in such a Dickensian way.
“The Federal Government must act immediately to rectify these breaches to international conventions and basic human rights.
“Transporting goods by road or rail requires the payment of Australian minimum wages and an adherence to Australian health and safety regulations, but companies transporting goods by sea seek to avoid those requirements so they can slash costs.”
Mr Purcell said that Devonport offered an clear example of Australian workers being dumped in favour of flag of convenience crews.
“You only need to look across the bay from the Alexander Spirit to understand what the cheap alternative to Australian crews looks like,” he said.
“Flag of convenience shipping is riddled with questionable practices, yet the Australian Government wants to make it the new normal, rather than an extreme exception.
“The Abbott Government’s hatred of Australian maritime workers is so great that they are willing to allow our entire coastal trade to be left to the cheapest, dodgiest flag of convenience operators, who rely on vulnerable, exploited international workers.”