‘Horror ship’ detained in Australian port

Reports of crew bullying and poor work conditions led to Tintomara being detained in Australia. Credit: Dietmar Hasenpusch

Chemical tanker Tintomara sailed out of Gladstone, Australia, this week with a new master at the helm, after allegations of crew abuse led to the ship being detained for three days. The Liberia-flagged vessel arrived from New Orleans in the US state of Louisiana on 23 February.

“We were doing a routine inspection,” a representative of Australian port state control body Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) told Fairplay sister title Safety at Sea (SAS). “Our inspectors went on board and crew said, ‘We are being harassed’.” Crew also alleged inadequate food provisions and underpayment of wages, she added.

From an initial inspection on 23 February, AMSA inspectors were satisfied that adequate provisions had been supplied and that crew had been paid correctly, but payment of wages appeared to be two weeks late. However, allegations of harassment at the hands of their captain and chief officer were later found by AMSA to be true.

Crew complaints alleged a culture of bullying, non-payment of overtime, long working hours, and crew members losing weight due to the lack of food, according to reports. As more details emerged, local media dubbed Tintomara the “horror ship”.

One seafarer on board the ship was sent home to India because he was too distraught to return to the vessel, according to the local press after interviewing the 26 Filipino, Bangladeshi, and Indian seamen at the Mission to Seafarers centre at Gladstone Marina.

This is the highest-profile case of bullying reported in Australia since the two crew deaths on board coal carrier Sage Sagittarius in 2012 resulted in a coroner’s inquest and senate inquiry.

“AMSA worked closely with the ship’s onshore agent and operator over the weekend,” the organisation told SAS. “The chief officer was removed by the agent on Friday evening and the master by an MLC [Maritime Labour Convention] auditor appointed by the operator on Sunday evening.”

Ship’s agent Far East Management removed the chief officer, then the captain, from the tanker and signed an International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) agreement before the ship sailed for Singapore on 26 February.

The contract included an indemnity form saying no seafarers would be punished, banned from work, or further intimidated after taking action in Gladstone, the ITF reported. The shipowner, Laurin Maritime, was contacted by SAS for comment but received no reply by the time of writing.

AMSA re-inspected Tintomara on 26 February and was satisfied that the ship fully complied with all relevant international standards. It was released from detention shortly after 10:00 local time.

Ship detentions for MLC breaches have become monthly events in Australia. The AMSA monthly detention lists for 2017 showed a total of 14 detentions from January to November.

The 2016 AMSA Port State Control Report noted a total of 133 complaints about living and working conditions on ships trading with Australia, mostly from the seafarers and ITF, government agencies, seafarer welfare groups, and pilots.

“Following investigation of the complaints received, deficiencies were issued against 32 vessels and 7 vessels were detained for MLC-related breaches,” the report says.

Most of the complaints were about wages owing (48), food (40), contracts (14), hours of work (15), and repatriations (16). Bullying and harassment made up 11 of the 68 complaints substantiated.

Contact Zoe Reynolds on her Twitter @zoerey

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