MSC’s recent crew change in Japan prompted International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF)’s call for companies to extend similar provisions to seafarers
The current trade tension between Australia and China resulted in numerous vessels stranded due to the latter’s regulations on offloading at their ports. Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC)’s bulker, Anastasia was one of the stranded vessels that subsequently diverted to Japan for crew release. This significant move prompted ITF to petition for companies for similar provisions to seafarers onboard beyond their contracted duration.
ITF’s appeal for collective intervention
Paddy Crumlin, ITF’s president appealed: “MSC has led the way by paying the necessary costs and penalties to charterers and cargo owners in order to rescue the crew of their ship onboard Anastasia, and see them rescued from their six-month floating prison via a port in Japan.
“We call on all responsible ship owners to follow MSC’s lead and perform these long-overdue crew changes. It will be costly for these shipping companies, but it is absolutely necessary to preserve the health, lives and human rights of these seafarers. A number of seafarers have already attempted suicide on these ships, desperate to end their ongoing suffering. Health conditions are worsening. Medical supplies are running low on some vessels.”
He added, “We are very concerned to hear reports that in some cases local Chinese authorities have blocked seafarers from accessing medical professionals, including urgently-needed hospitalisations.”
Side effects of the trade tension
To date, over 60 vessels are reportedly unable to offload their Australian cargoes. As a result, seafarers remain stuck onboard for appalling duration; some for as long as 20 months. Up to six months within this period are spent waiting off the Chinese coast.
Crumlin advocated the need for China to introduce protocols allowing crew change for all foreign seafarers. Referencing MSC’s move, he said that shipping companies have a humanitarian duty to preserve the lives and welfare of seafarers employed on their ships by diverting to neighbouring countries.
Criticising both nations, Crumlin noted, “China has failed to put aside its bickering with Australia and respond to this man-made humanitarian disaster just kilometres from its coast. Australia, too, has frequently put politics ahead of crew welfare. We call on the industry to step up where the governments have failed: show some leadership and get these desperate people off your ships. MSC has proven it is possible.”