Crew of ship detained in Newcastle taken to Sydney for COVID isolation
The Tomago Aluminium alumina ship tied up at Newcastle because of underpayment of crew would not be going anywhere soon, International Transport Federation (ITF) co-ordinator Dean Summers said on Saturday night.
Mr Summers said the vessel, the Unison Jasper, had been detained at Koorgang Island on Friday by a federal government agency, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, because of pay breaches under an International Labour Organisation convention recognised by Australia.
He said the 11 Burmese crew who had come off the vessel had been taken to Sydney under police escort and were now at a motel starting 14 days of COVID quarantine.
He said seven Burmese sailors had originally been taken ashore by AMSA but the other four, who were "scared" of the nine Chinese officers, had been allowed to leave the vessel as well.
He said the coronavirus isolation was "a bit ironic seeing they have been in isolation on the ship for 14 months", but that was the law as things stood.
He said AMSA and the ITF were being "pressured" to have the vessel moved from the Kooragang 3 alumina berth to another wharf in the port because Tomago Aluminium had another vessel waiting to bring the next cargo of alumina.
"I've asked Tomago Aluminium if they can guarantee that the next ship doesn't have crew on slavery conditions - because this is what it is, slavery," Mr Summers said.
"These people have been effectively detained on this vessel for 14 months and owed considerable amounts of money. They are working against their will. That's effectively slavery."
Mr Summers said he was unable to say when the vessel would move. He said the ship's connections had asked for permission to move it across the harbour with an under-sized crew, and had been granted it, but once the remaining four Burmese left it was not possible, and so the vessel was still at the alumina berth.
He said the Unison Jasper was proof the federal government had no co-ordination on shipping policy, given that conditions were so bad for the crew that AMSA had no problems taking the crew off the vessel, yet it was chartered for the run from Gladstone to Newcastle on a "temporary licence" issued under the authority of the federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development.
Saturday's original report
A SHIP bringing alumina feedstock from Queensland to Tomago Aluminium has been detained in Newcastle over alleged underpayment and other breaches of seafarers' minimum conditions by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF).
ITF Australian head Dean Summers said the ship, the Unison Jasper, had been detained in July in Brisbane but had been allowed to depart after $93,000 in wages was paid to 11 Burmese crew.
Mr Summers said records showed at least $60,000 was still owed, so the vessel had been detained at Kooragang Island, where it just had unloaded its cargo of alumina.
"It won't be going anywhere until this is sorted," Mr Summers said.