ITF repatriates South Korean striking crew members

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) said that it had repatriated the fatigued crew members of South Korean-owned bulk carrier Contamines (IMO 9743277) after the seafarers downed their tools. They had been working on board with expired contracts and were approaching a year at sea, the ITF said, with their repatriation delayed because of Covid-19 restrictions at many ports in the world.

Manning company ADK Maritime from Singapore was reported to have promised to relieve the crew on several occasions, but either had been unable, or failed, to meet those promises.

The ITF noted that the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) requires that a seafarer be entitled to be repatriated to their home country after their original contract expires, or they can choose to extend their contact up until a cumulative maximum length of 11 months on board. Ships are not allowed to operate with crew who have expired contracts.

The Contamines came into a berth in Panama on July 31st and the ITF recognized this as an opportunity to facilitate the repatriation of Ukrainian and Russian seafarers.

The ITF said that its Latin America/Caribbean Network Coordinator, Juan Villalón, reached out to the ship’s crew. “During his discussions with them, Villalón learnt that the crew’s contracts had been doubled since they first signed, and many were quickly approaching a year – over the legal maximum”.

“The crew also said that the ship’s South Korean owner had promised on a number of occasions to repatriate them. Every time the promises would come, but the ship kept sailing. Crew had been growing increasingly frustrated, and now even some of their salaries had stopped being paid.”

The ITF said that there then followed “back-and-forth haggling” between the ADK Maritime, the union and the crew. The ITF claimed that the manning company tried to pressure the seafarers to resume their voyage to Bermuda and repatriate from there.

The seafarers stopped work at Panama, which enabled the Panamanian Port State Control (PSC) agency to arrest the ship to prevent its scheduled transit of the Panama Canal. By August 6th the PSC had evidence that missing salaries had been paid, but repatriation had still not yet occurred.

The next day four crew members signed off the Contamines as it sat in port, including the chief engineer (who is Panamanian) and the chief mate. The four were sent to a hotel, finally embarking on their voyage home.

“ADK Maritime had cut all salaries since the day the crew stopped working, despite the repatriation delay being almost entirely the fault of the company,” ITF said.

Over the following days the company’s replacement crew arrived. On August 11th, the rest of the crew left the vessel and boarded flights to take them home.

The ITF termed itself “disappointed” to see the known problems in crew changes because of Covid-19 being exacerbated by a lack of empathy from manning agencies and other stakeholders.

2016-built, Marshall Islands-flagged, 94,544 gt Contamines is owned by MassMutual Asset Finance LLC care of Navios Shipmanagement of Piraeus, Greece. It is managed by Sinokor Maritime Co Ltd of Seoul, South Korea. ISM manager is ADK Maritime Pte Ltd of Singapore. It is entered with Gard AS on behalf of MassMutual Asset Finance LLC. It is entered for H&M with Gard AS on behalf of Sinokor Petrochemical Co Ltd.