Australia Bans Two More Ships as it Enforces Rules for Crew Welfare

Australia banned two ships
Port of Newcastle (file photo)

Published Sep 1, 2020 6:54 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) continued its strict enforcement of rules seeking to ensure the welfare of seafarers announcing that it has banned to additional vessels. This comes after AMSA announced several other actions in the past few months and an ongoing inspection effort on all container ships calling in Australian ports.

After being detained in the port of Newcastle, Australia for a month, the Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier Unison Jasper has now been banned from Australian ports for six months. The year-old, 37,000 DWT bulk carrier was detained on July 25 for breaches to the Maritime Labour Convention. According to AMSA, they have found several sets of wage accounts and multiple conflicting seafarer employment agreements as well as insufficient quantity and variety of food on board and an ineffective complaints procedure.

On July 31, 2020, AMSA reported that 11 crew members exercised their right to leave the ship and entered into quarantine arrangements in Sydney so they could be repatriated to their own country. The ship remained under detention in Newcastle because there were not enough crew onboard to sail the ship safely. The operator, Unison Marine Corporation arranged for a replacement crew which arrived from overseas and then the vessel was permitted to depart Australia.

AMSA’s General Manager Operations Allan Schwartz said the lengthy detention of the ship had no doubt been an extremely costly exercise in non-compliance for the ship’s operator. The decision to ban the Unison Jasper he said was the result of a combination of factors and systemic failings by the operator, and the ship resulting in serious breaches of the Maritime Labour Convention. 

“We are sending a simple message to operators: Pay your crew properly, treat them respectfully, and comply with the requirements of the Maritime Labour Convention or you will not be welcome in Australia. We do not tolerate this in Australian waters and Unison Jasper is now the fifth ship in the last 12 months to be banned by AMSA for failing to pay seafarers their wages in full and on time.”

This came just a day after AMSA also announced that the 18,000 DWT Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship BBC Rio, was also being banned from Australian ports for three months due to what AMSA called serious and repeated safety and pollution prevention related failures. 

The ship was detained on August 18, 2020 in Bunbury, Western Australia according to AMSA after a routine inspection revealed 20 deficiencies. Those deficiencies ranged from serious electrical hazards, faulty fuel oil leak alarms, defective forepeak tank head, a defective bridge window, a broken sewage treatment plant and significant oil accumulation in the engine room.

According to Schwartz AMSA had also previously detained a sister ship, the BBC Rainbow, on February 12, 2020 for similar failures relating to safety and pollution prevention.

“The operator was issued with a formal letter warning that should BBC Rainbow or another ship in its fleet be caught with serious deficiencies in Australian waters again, that it may attract more serious regulatory action,” said Schwartz. “Fast forward six months and here we are with BBC Rio in a similar sub-standard condition, placing the safety of the seafarers on board the ship and Australia’s marine environment at risk.”

The BBC Rio rectified the most serious safety deficiencies according to AMSA while detained in Bunbury and was permitted to offload its remaining cargo in Adelaide, South Australia as scheduled to avoid any disruption to cargo operations.