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Seafarer exploitation: Australia takes a stand against injustice

Seafarer exploitation: Australia takes a stand against injustice

In a significant move against worker exploitation in the maritime industry, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has banned the Liberian-flagged bulk carrier MSXT Emily from Australian waters for a year. This decision came after AMSA discovered multiple violations of the Maritime Labour Convention during an inspection prompted by a tip-off from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). The vessel, chartered by K-Line for transporting coal to Japan, was found guilty of serious offenses.

AMSA revealed that the seafarers on board the MSXT Emily were not being paid according to their employment contracts. Shockingly, some contracts had ‘apparently forged signatures,’ and five seafarers were coerced into signing new agreements with lower wages. In one case, a seafarer signed a new contract while still holding a valid one for the next four months, but at a 50% reduced pay rate.

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Inspectors discovered that over US$77,000 in unpaid wages were owed to these seafarers. Although the ship’s operators attempted to pay the owed amount once AMSA inspectors intervened, the operators had initially concealed this repeated wage theft, AMSA stated.

AMSA’s Executive Director of Operations, Michael Drake, expressed deep concern over these conditions. He emphasized that wage theft, forgery, and coercion are severe matters, and such exploitation would not be tolerated in Australian waters. Drake acknowledged the ITF’s role in exposing this issue and thanked them for their advocacy in championing seafarer rights and welfare.

To send a strong message about the importance of seafarer welfare, AMSA imposed a one-year ban. Drake stressed the vital role seafarers play in the modern economy, emphasizing that mistreatment could lead to various negative consequences. He called on the entire supply chain, including vessel charters like K-Line, to be mindful of the operators they engage with, advocating for fair pay and good workplace conditions for these essential workers.

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Despite global efforts, instances of appalling treatment of seafarers persist, casting a dark shadow over the maritime industry. These incidents not only damage the sector’s reputation but also contradict the industry’s goals of fair labor practices and improved living conditions, as championed by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Addressing these challenges collectively is paramount. Stakeholders must reinforce their commitment to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles and the UN SDGs. By doing so, the maritime industry can move towards a more ethical and sustainable future, ensuring the well-being and dignity of all its contributors.

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