A shipping major has decided to assit seven Indonesian seafarers reach home from a ship docked in the port of Melbourne following an official complaint lodged by them on being harassed and bullied by senior officers on the ship.
On Friday, the seafarers from MV Sincere signed a letter to Uniteam Marine that manages the ship, refusing to sail to the next port – Eden on the NSW south coast – until they receive a documented assurance they will then be repatriated.
Fanny Arhandika Trisna, one of the seafarers, said that he had been at sea for a decade and never encountered the level of abuse and overwork he was subject to on Sincere. He also added that this had been the first time the captain treated him and other seafarers like animals, with no respect.
In a statement, a Cyprus-headquartered Uniteam spokesman said that the company was collaborating with the international seafarers’ union. They had been investigating the workers’ complaints of crew mistreatment and officer misconduct.
Matt Purcell, the assistant Australian coordinator of the International Transport Workers Federation, said that despite spending about 25 years in the industry, he had never before seen crew members so unhappy within a month of their 11-month contract.
Mr. Purcell, who has been on the ship several times to talk to the crew, said that it is a good indication of the abuse they have received. He also recalled how a 19-year-old crew member had been intimidated and shouted at by the captain.
Without the crew, Mr. Purcell added that the ship would be below its minimum threshold set by the Marshall Islands – its flag state.
That will need the operators to either take on local sailors, which could be done faster, or from overseas, which would likely take longer owing to pandemic-related travel restrictions.
An Australian Marine Safety Authority spokesman said that it was aware of the concerns raised by the seafarers of the Sincere. He said that AMSA is collaborating with the crew, the ship owners, and the ITF for faster investigation and to resolve the matters.
Labor standards in the maritime industry can be challenging to enforce owing to the vessels’ frequent isolation, complicated jurisdictional questions, and layers of companies with varied responsibilities.
The ongoing pandemic and global trade disputes, including China’s recent trade strike on Australian coal, have resulted in some sailors being stranded on board the ships for months without getting to see land.