Decision to ban vessel that underpaid workers $100k upheld
THE decision to ban a Panama-flagged ship from using any Australian port for a year for underpaying workers has been affirmed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority surveyors boarded the bulk carrier Fortune Genius in Gladstone on September 5 last year after receiving a complaint via the International Transport Workers' Federation.
The crew on board included eight seafarers from Myanmar.
The vessel was subsequently detained after AMSA's investigation revealed the crew had been deliberately underpaid for consecutive months, totalling about $100,000.
Two sets of wage accounts were found to be in use.
The direction to ban the ship from entering or using any port in Australia was issued by the authority on September 13.
The ship's owner and operator then applied to the tribunal to review the direction.
They argued the period of exclusion should be no more than three months, claiming they had a good history of compliance, made all payments to crewing agencies and had no knowledge of any failure to pay crew.
In his decision, AAT deputy president J.W. Constance agreed with AMSA that such contraventions of the Maritime Labour Convention were extremely serious, and that banning the vessel was appropriate.
AMSA's general manager of operations Allan Schwartz said it would never tolerate ships that underpay their crew in Australia.
"The international conventions that protect seafarers' rights are very clear," Mr Schwartz said.
"The decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal supports AMSA's approach to ban ships that underpay crew for extended periods of time.
"Ships visiting Australian ports are on notice that if we find deliberate and repeated underpaying of crew and attempts to deceive authorities, they can expect penalties."