Thursday, May 23, 2019

Ship Owner Accused of Unscrupulous Practices as Vessel Runs Out of Drinking Water

German Company Firmly in the Sights of Transport Union Federation
Shipping News Feature
GERMANY – LIBERIA – WORLDWIDE – Last month we told how the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) had gone to war with the Hamburg based ship operator Johann M. K. Blumenthal after several instances of poor treatment of crew and the company's refusal to acknowledge its workers employment rights.

In the latest occurrence the ITF has published the picture above, what it terms ‘an appalling photograph’ showing a tarpaulin placed over a bulk chemical tank by the crew of the Liberian registered Lita to collect rainwater for drinking, no potable water being available on board. The ITF says it had alerted the Liberian flag authorities more than a week ago after an initial report that the vessel was running critically low on water. ITF maritime coordinator Jacqueline Smith, commented:

“The fact that seafarers are being forced to collect rainwater in order to survive is an indictment on Blumenthal. Their diet is bread and water, without the water! Blumenthal is playing dangerously with the lives of these seafarers aboard the Lita which must be exposed to, and condemned by, the entire maritime industry.

“We’re concerned, but not surprised, about the lack of action from the Liberian registry because clearly nothing has been done to help these men. This systemic abuse of these seafarers’ rights is the dreadful reality of many Flag of Convenience ships and one that allows unscrupulous operators like Blumenthal to exploit workers’ most fundamental rights like access to clean drinking water.”

The ITF is a long term opponent of so called Flags of Convenience, which the Federation says are merely a ruse used by unscrupulous ship owners to cut costs and adopt practices not acceptable to other registries. It says that this latest revelation is more damming proof of the systemic mistreatment of seafarers across Blumenthal’s fleet, sparked initially by the detention of the Anna-Elisabeth in Australia and the release of distressing stories of intimidation, threats and abusive conditions on board the German shipping company’s global vessels.

Accusations raised by the ITF against Blumenthal include cases of forced overtime, withholding of wages, discrimination based on nationality, a lack of access essential provisions like food and water, and being forced to sign waivers stating they don’t want union representation. ITF inspector and leader of the Blumenthal targeted operation, Sven Hemme said:

“Over the past six weeks, the ITF have exposed the exploitative conditions seafarers are forced to endure working on Blumenthal ships. Seafarers who are desperate for help. This must be the final straw. The Liberian flag must intervene, and Blumenthal's president Dr Matthias Reith must engage with the ITF and German maritime unions to set a responsible and dignified standard for workers on board all of their ships.”