Lifeline for crew stranded off the port of Gladstone
A MONTH-and-a-half deadlock with the charterers of a ship stranded off the port of Gladstone has come to a head, with the ship set to sail, according to the nation's chief maritime safety authority.
An Australian Maritime Safety Authority spokesman said "discussions with the owners" in the past 24 hours "yielded positive developments", with the charterer committing to paying the crew's wages, restocking food supplies and refuelling the ship.
"The ship's charterers have indicated they will resolve the matter of outstanding wages and fuel resupply," the spokesman said.
"AMSA has been in contact with all parties concerned to ensure that the actions required for the lifting of the detention are clearly understood."
The ship, which was first detained by order of the Federal Court in July, was freed this month.
But AMSA detained the ship days later when inspectors found there was not enough food on board to sustain the crew for the 16-day journey back to Hong Kong and the crew's wages had not been paid.
The spokesman was not able to give a timeframe for when the charterer would meet AMSA's demands.
But International Transport Workers Federation assistant co-ordinator Matt Purcell questioned the credibility of the charterer's commitment, saying they made the same guarantee last Friday.
They then "reneged" on the guarantee on Sunday, saying they would pay only port fees.
"It was all champagne and caviar on Friday," he said. "Then it turned to fish and chips on Sunday.
"We've been hearing it for a long time. We need someone to make a statement saying, 'it's going to be fixed and it's going to be done on this date'.
"AMSA are trying their guts out to resolve it, but they keep drawing a short straw when they talk to the owners."
Mr Purcell said the crew urgently needed to be brought ashore as supplies would run out by Friday.
"Unless it's resolved now, and I mean now, within the next 24 to 48 hours, they've got to come ashore," he said.
"It's a humanitarian issue now."
He demanded the ship, currently 10km off shore, be brought in about 6km to allow better access to the crew for welfare providers, including Mission to Seafarers and ITWF.
He also raised concerns the owners were purposely keeping the ship offshore to "keep us and the welfare providers from seeing how the crew are".