The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has banned the Panama-flagged bulk carrier AC Sesoda for deliberately underpaying its crew by more than AUD $118,000 (US$84,600), which the ship’s operator attempted to conceal from authorities.
AMSA boarded the ship at Mourilyan in Queensland mid-September 2020 to investigate allegations about underpayment. During AMSA’s investigation, evidence was collected which confirmed that a number of crew had only been paid half of their wages since October 2019.
The ship’s master and Taiwanese operator, Sincere Industrial Corporation, attempted to conceal the underpayment from AMSA inspectors by only producing a fabricated wage record which indicated that these seafarers had been paid in full. A second wage record showed that these seafarers had in fact been deliberately underpaid, while some senior members of the crew had been paid above their agreed rates.
The ship was detained by AMSA and the operator was directed to pay the outstanding wages. Since then, AMSA has received evidence that crew had been paid the outstanding wages and a rectification action plan developed by the operator to ensure the same failure did not reoccur.
AMSA General Manager Operations Allan Schwartz said the ship was released from detention and issued with a 12-month ban, prohibiting it from entering an Australian port.
“This is the fourth ship that we have banned this year for serious and shameful breaches of the Maritime Labour Convention,” Schwartz said. “It’s hard to believe that some operators still think that it is acceptable to underpay their seafarers. AMSA will not tolerate such deliberate and deceitful mistreatment of seafarers on ships that sail in Australian waters.
“AMSA has made its position abundantly clear – we have a zero tolerance for the underpayment of crew. This type of behavior is unethical, disrespectful and in complete contravention to the Maritime Labor Convention.
“I have no doubt that the financial and reputational impact that being banned from Australia has on the operator, far exceeds the cost of paying seafarers the money that they have rightfully earnt.
“AC Sesoda has now joined a long list of ships including most recently the Unison Jasper, TW Hamburg and Agia Sofia which have been banned from Australian ports after being caught treating their seafarers like modern day slaves.
“Collectively, the seafarers on these four ships were underpaid in excess of $290,000, funds which were recovered through the actions of AMSA.
“We are sending a simple message to operators: Pay your crew properly, treat them respectfully and comply with the requirements of the Maritime Labor Convention or you will not be welcome in Australia.”