The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) says Australia is facing economic carnage from clogged ports as a result of rapidly worsening crew change crisis around its coasts, as the crews of two further ships in Western Australia and Victoria refused to keep sailing today in bids for repatriation.
The ‘Conti Stockholm’ and ‘Ben Rinnes’ are just the latest ships to become idle and block berths due to over contract crew enforcing their right to refuse to sail indefinitely, joining the alumina carting Unison Jasper which has been held up in Newcastle, NSW since last week.
In the Port of Fremantle, Perth, the container vessel Conti Stockholm was stopped. The Liberian flagged ship is owned by German company NSB Group.
The ship is now stranded, going nowhere, as the company awaits a relief crew. The current Romanian, Chinese, Sri Lankan, Filipino and Polish crew members refused to sail the ship and demanded repatriation after many months at sea. These seafarers are over contract, and have a right under the Maritime Labour Convention to stop working at completion of their contracts, and be returned home at the employers’ expense.
The Conti Stockholm was also boarded by a member of the Australian federal Labor opposition, Senator Glen Sterle. The Senator is supporting the ITF’s call for a coordinated response from the Australian Government working with unions and industry to ease the crew change crisis.
The ITF believes the governments failures to introduce a system of effective crew change have directly led to more seafarers being over contract and taking matters into their own hand to get home.
The second stopped ship today is the Marshall Islands flagged ‘Ben Rinnes’, which has been chartered to cart soy product for Cargill. The Greek owned bulk vessel was stopped in the Victorian port of Geelong after initially four, then five, of the crew told the ITF that they wanted to be repatriated following expiry of their contracts.
All of the Ben Rinnes crew who have taken a stand to get off have been on board for longer than the legal maximum, except for just one, who will go beyond the 11 month limit within the next 30 days.
One of the crew has been more than 17 months on board. The crew have told the ITF that they signed five month extensions after their nine month tour, on a promise from the owners to repatriate them. As of yet there are no plans by the company to get them home. ■
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