The Rena has been detained off Hay Point since June 6 with crew owed about $53,000.
The Rena has been detained off Hay Point since June 6 with crew owed about $53,000. Contributed

Ship detained off Hay Point with crew running out of food

FOOD had to be delivered yesterday to a ship that's been detained off Hay Point after an investigation revealed safety issues and a failure to pay the seafarers on board.

The Daily Mercury understands Australian Maritime Safety Authority officers have detained the bulk carrier Rena since July 6 after a inspection revealed issues, including the Filipino crew being owed about $53,000 in wages.

AMSA officers boarded the vessel on July 6 to discover the failure of the emergency generator, problems with the lifeboats and safety management issues.

"The crew has also not been paid for some time, and owed about $53,000," an AMSA spokeswoman said.

The inspection followed a complaint to the International Transport Workers Federation.

AMSA received the complaint on June 20, but had been unable to board the Rena for inspection until it docked at Hay Point on July 6.

According to the spokeswoman, the ship was boarded the same day it arrived in port.

She said AMSA had been talking with officials from the flag state (Bermuda) to get the issues fixed, and the authority has received a productive response.

"The three safety issues have been resolved and we are expecting the pay is going to be resolved in coming days," the spokeswoman said.

Pay for seafarers on international ships is divided with some going to family and some wages being given as cash to the crew.

The dispute is over the cash which is distributed directly to crew.

On Friday food was delivered to the crew, who have been on board since the ship arrived in port several weeks ago.

"They (the crew) were in good spirits (at the time of the inspection)," the AMSA spokeswoman said.

The Daily Mercury tried to contact the ship owner Trojan Maritime, who is based in Greece, but our phone calls went unanswered.

The circumstances of the ship being detained has outraged the International Transport Workers Federation Australian coordinator Dean Summers.

He said this was just another 'flag of convenience' case that allowed ship owners to remain "out of reach" on accountability.

Flag of convenience is the practice where the ship is registered in a country other than that of the ship's owners.

"These (flag-of-convenience seafarers) are getting paid as little as $1.25 an hour," Mr Summers claimed.

"Here we have 20 seafarers off the coast of Hay Point that no-one in Australia knows about or cares about."

Mr Summers said he had also received reports of the ship running out of food.

"Do we have to have a chook raffle to get these guys fed?" he asked.

He said international ships were getting away with poor treatment of seafarers because of "lazy government" and "legislative loopholes".

In July last year the China-bound cargo ship Five Stars Fujian was detained off Gladstone on reports that the crew had not been paid.

That ship, owned by Five Stars Fujian Shipping Co, was holding $40 million worth of coal off the Gladstone port.

Report tabled

Mr Summers said reports into flag of convenience shipping tabled in Federal Parliament this week highlighted some of the issues with the shipping industry.

"There were three concerns - economic, environmental and border security," Mr Summers said.

"It's a very good report with a whole lot of recommendations and here (the situation at Hay Point) was a great example of why it's important."

The Senate Inquiry examining ships registered in developing countries, described as flying a 'flag of convenience' (FOC), told the government on Wednesday there were "very real and current risks to our nation" posed by these vessels.

The committee headed by Labor's Glenn Sterle and driven in part by Nationals Senator Barry O'Sullivan found the ships "present security risks to the Australian coast, which need to be properly addressed".

An earlier report by the inquiry called for a major review the industry.

The Turnbull Government largely dismissed the recommendations, saying they were unnecessary.

The findings come in the aftermath of the "Death Ship" saga, in which two foreign sailors aboard the MV Sage Sagittarius were found to have died as a result of foul play while their foreign-flagged coal ship cruised into Australian waters.

A coronial inquest spanning two years failed to name a suspect or recommend charges.

The NSW Deputy Coroner did conclude that the ship's captain likely "caused or authorised" the disappearance of the cook, or at least knew more than he would let on.

Former Sagittarius captain Venancio Salas Jr has consistently denied any knowledge of the circumstances which led to the two deaths.

There is no suggestion any crew member of the Rena was killed or injured.

Seafarer advocates say the government was "intentionally encouraging" the underbelly of foreign shipping.

ITF national coordinator Dean Summers said the inquiry had learned about the "murky world" of shipping, so far ignored by the government.

"The Senate Inquiry heard multiple accounts of the very worst of what FOC shipping has to offer -- murders, gun-running, intimidation, bullying, harassment and slave labour," he said.

"The appalling case of multiple murders at sea onboard the Sage Sagittarius was the basis for this inquiry, and serves as a shocking reminder of what can happen when an entire industry is little more than a race to the bottom."

International Transport Workers' Federation president Paddy Crumlin said neglect of Australia's own shipping industry means the gaps are being filled by foreign and FOC ships.

He said Australian seafarers were being replaced by "whoever comes over the horizon without a word of inquiry about their background".

On Wednesday, News Corp Australia revealed Captain Salas was given a three-year approval to work inside Australian waters less than 12 months after the AFP launched a murder investigation into how the men died on his former vessel.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton declined to answer specific questions about the inquiry, and the government's view of reforms.

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