Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Flag of Convenience Cargo Ship Detained by UK Authorities

Unions Describe Appalling Conditions Aboard Turkish Vessel
Shipping News Feature
UK – TURKEY – Maritime unions are up in arms over the pay and conditions allegedly being endured aboard the general cargo ship Seccadi which has been detained by the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency at a lay-by berth at Manisty, Ellesmere Port, where it was recently moved to from Runcorn by Peel Ports after languishing there for some time. The Turkish owners, Voda Shipping, have apparently just recently responded to questions from the authorities regarding the status of the Turkish and Indian crew aboard the Panama registered vessel.

Some of the Indian crew have apparently been aboard for an entire year and, despite the fact that after pressure from the Nautilus Union and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) a claim amounting to in excess of £50,000 in back pay has now mostly been settled, problems still remain for those trapped on board. Nautilus International/ITF ship inspector Tommy Molloy, who lodged protests with the Turkish owners and the Panama ship registry over the shocking conditions, found no fresh fruit, vegetables or meat on board the ship and there was a cockroach infestation in the galley. He observed:

“When crew are not paid for more than two months, not repatriated and do not have the basic food requirements to sustain a healthy diet, then they are considered to have been abandoned. The North West Port Welfare Committee and the good people of Merseyside are rallying round and have taken it upon themselves to look after the crew’s welfare. Fresh fruit and vegetables have been provided by the Seafarers Centre, who are also ensuring they have adequate shore leave as a diversion from their plight. Others have offered cash donations to cover their basic needs. That they do so speaks volumes for their good hearts. That they have to in 2017 is a disgrace.

”Everybody concerned has given the operator ample opportunity to resolve this matter. What nobody wanted is another crew stuck here for months on end relying on the goodwill of local people and organisations to keep them alive. Having given the crew a period to remain in the UK whilst we attempted to resolve the matter, it seems the Border Force had little option but to advise the owner that they would have to remove the crew and return them to their home countries.

”This would have meant that a replacement crew from outside of the EU would not be allowed in to the UK and in all likelihood an application would have been made to the Admiralty Marshall for judicial sale of the vessel to settle all outstanding debts and costs incurred. This was a real concern for the crew. If removed by Border Force, they would have ‘Deported’ stamped on their passports.

”This would have catastrophic consequences for their future careers as seafarers. We have worked with all concerned to try to avoid this outcome. If the ship owner finally delivers on its obligations, then it will have been worthwhile. We are not counting any chickens yet but we have to be hopeful that this will bring the matter to a successful conclusion.”

Yet again we have seen a flag of convenience vessel detained by the UK authorities manned by a crew which has been treated essentially as slave labour, some of the Seccadi crew were reportedly being paid just 66 pence per hour until the union intervention, a clear breach of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) by the owners, a company which also has other vessels detained in the ports of Sharpness and Thirsk, both with similar problems.