Australia bans bulk carrier Unison Jasper for underpaying seafarers

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has banned Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier Unison Jasper (IMO 9838436) from Australian ports for six months.

The Unison Jasper has remained alongside in the Port of Newcastle, New South Wales, under detention, since July 25th for breaches of the Maritime Labour Convention. The breaches related to the operation of several sets of wage accounts and multiple conflicting seafarer employment agreements.

AMSA also said that it found an insufficient quantity and variety of food on board and an ineffective complaints procedure.

On July 31st 2020 11 crew members exercised their right to leave the ship and entered into quarantine arrangements in Sydney so they could be repatriated to their own country.

Since then the ship has remained under detention in Newcastle because there were not enough crew onboard to sail the ship safely. The operator, Unison Marine Corporation has now organized replacement crew from overseas, which has allowed the ship to meet its minimum crewing requirements and depart.

General Manager Operations Allan Schwartz said the lengthy detention of the ship had no doubt been an extremely costly exercise in non-compliance for the ship’s operator. The decision to ban the Unison Jasper was the result of a combination of factors and systemic failings by the operator, and the ship resulting in serious breaches of the Maritime Labour Convention.

“Our decision to ban Unison Jasper reflects our zero tolerance for the mistreatment of seafarers,” Mr Schwartz said.

He noted that “seafarers are making enormous sacrifices right now by being away for extended periods of time from their loved ones, just to keep critical global trade moving. To respond to that sacrifice by depriving seafarers of their rightful wages which they and their loved ones back home depend on, is completely unacceptable. “We do not tolerate this in Australian waters and Unison Jasper is now the fifth ship in the last 12 months to be banned by AMSA for failing to pay seafarers their wages in full and on time.”

Since the release of Marine Notice 04/2020, seven ships have been detained in Australia because of MLC-related deficiencies. Four of these were directly related to the issues identified in the Marine Notice.

The vessels sanctioned apart from the Unison Jasper were:

SKS Doyles – The Norwegian flagged oil tanker was detained because 11 seafarers were found to have expired employment agreements. Five seafarers were found to have extended employment agreements with no evidence of flag State agreement of these extensions. The ship was also detained for the failure to maintain the vessel in accordance with mandatory regulations (MLC).

Grand Venture – The Panama flagged bulk carrier was detained for failing to provide decent working and living conditions required under Article IV of the MLC. Part of this failure was that there was no plan in place for the repatriation of seafarers.

Agia Sofia – The Liberian flagged bulk carrier was detained due to systemic underpayment of seafarers, with A$45,000 owed to the seafarers onboard. Due to the systemic nature of the underpayment, the ship was directed to not enter or use an Australian port for six months (banned).

TW Hamburg – The Liberian flagged bulk carrier was detained due to the ship failing to provide decent working and living conditions required under Article IV of the MLC. This included systemic underpayment of seafarers, failure to provide sufficient quantity and quality of food and attempts to coerce seafarers to withdraw their complaints. Due to the systemic nature of the underpayment, the ship was directed to not enter or use an Australian port for 12 months (banned).

Interlink Fortuity – The Marshall Islands flagged bulk carrier was detained for minor underpayment of wages for several seafarers. Complaints relating to this ship had been received by AMSA, which prompted AMSA to inspect this ship.

Ben Rinnes –The Marshall Islands flagged bulk carrier was detained in Geelong on 7 August 2020. Two seafarers had served onboard for more than 14 months, with no flag approved/mutually agreed plan for repatriation and leave. Three seafarers were disembarked in total from the ship and are currently waiting repatriation.

https://www.amsa.gov.au/vessels-operators/port-state-control/marine-notice-042020-summary-statistics