Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Freight Vessel Faces Arrest for Disgusting Conditions and Unpaid Wages

Disgrace of Foreign Ships Held in UK Ports as Maritime Labour Convention Bites
Shipping News Feature

UK – Tonight at 17:00 hours the Turkish owned, Panamanian flagged merchant vessel Munzur faces arrest tonight after being detained by British authorities when breaches of the Maritime Labour Convention were discovered. It is believed the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) boarded the general cargo ship after she ran aground in the River Teign at Shaldon beach on 31 March when manoeuvring whilst empty of freight. The Munzur was turning when she grounded and the harbour commission tug boat Teign C sent to assist her and recover her to the harbour at Teignmouth.

Upon arrival in Fowey the ship was detained by the MCA for numerous breaches concerning the health and safety of the crew, these included insufficient and filthy bathroom and laundry facilities, insanitary food storage, many damaged lights and corroded pipework. Full details of the faults found, together with those of other vessels detained in the UK in March, can be seen here. There are 12 crew members, from five different nationalities on the ship who reported that all except one of them were being paid below the ILO minimum, with one earning just $400 per month. At least five of them saying they had not been paid since they joined the vessel in January/February.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is assisting the crew, and tell us most of these are desperate to leave the vessel and return home with collective unpaid wages standing at $35,000. Nine crew members have told the ITF they no longer want to sail on the vessel and have asked the ITF to legally challenge the company on their behalf and secure the owed wages and repatriation costs. ITF inspector Darren Procter is helping the crew and he explained:

“The contracts of employment on board are in breach of many Maritime Labour Convention regulations, and there are allegations that payment was made to secure employment. Living conditions are appalling, with the vessel having no hot water at the time of arrest, no washing machines, filthy bed linen, low levels of fresh food, unsafe electrics and a sanitary system which relies on a 45 gallon drum full of sea water. We have given the company a deadline of 17:00 today to pay the crew and organise repatriation. Failing that this vessel will have to be arrested.”

The vessel is reportedly owned by Munzur International Ship Management registered in Panama and operated by Anmar Shipping (Anmar Uluslararasi Nakliyat) from an apartment in Mersin. With the amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) now effectively in place as reported earlier this month, ship management companies are likely to have to shape up in future as this sort of incident becomes even more common with authorities prepared and willing to act on behalf of seafarers.

Photo: The Munzur with inset some of the conditions faced by the crew.