Trapped seafarers on 3 ships in Australia refuse to sail

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) said seafarers aboard three vessels who have been stuck at sea beyond their original contracts are stalling vessels in Australia, halting work and demanding to be repatriated

Due to port and border restrictions to stem the spread of Covid-19 have prevented ships from executing crew changes, stranding seafarers to work on ships beyond their original contracts.

A Bloomberg report last Friday, August 7, said the vessels Conti Stockholm, Ben Rinnes and Unison Jasper are blocking berths in the ports of Fremantle, Geelong and Newcastle, respectively.

The three vessels were currently idle, the union statement said on Thursday.  It stressed that the crewmembers are within their rights to refuse to sail.

“These three ships are just the tip of the iceberg. With international crew change all but blocked for the last five months – you can expect to see more and more crewmembers decide to drop anchor and get off in Australia,” ITF Coordinator for Australia Dean Summers said in the statement.

“The consequence for Australia’s mineral and agricultural exports and flow of imports will be significant. This is an economic and humanitarian emergency.”

According to the ITF, the Unison Jasper was hauling alumina; the Ben Rinnes was chartered by Cargill Inc. to transport soy, it said.  The Conti Stockholm is anchored in Fremantle

“We are frustrated to learn of crew members being over contract on the Ben Rinnes, which is unfortunately one of many such cases at the moment,” said a spokesperson for Cargill, which recognizes the challenges that many crew are facing and is trying to repatriate them.

Many of the crew on the Ben Rinnes had been on board for longer than the legal maximum, which is 11 months according to Maritime Labor Convention 2006. One seafarer has been on the ship for more than 17 months.

The ITF said, after their nine-month contracts, the seafarers of Ben Rinnes signed five-month extensions when the shipowner promised to repatriate them.

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