THREE deficiency notices were issued to the United Kingdom-flagged bulker Berge Heng Shan (IMO 9675949) at Port Hedland recently, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority has confirmed.

This followed a complaint about possible “non-compliance” with the Maritime Labour Convention.

AMSA’s inspectors issued three deficiencies to the ship relating to two of the crew’s Seafarer Employment Agreements having expired and two of the crew not being repatriated in accordance with their agreements.

The vessel was not detained and at the time of publication was in Indonesian waters on its way to Qingdao in China.

“The vessel addressed the deficiencies by signing extensions to the expired agreements and submitting a repatriation plan to AMSA undertaking that the seafarers would be repatriated in the Philippines,” AMSA said in a statement.

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“AMSA recognises that vessel operators may be facing difficulty due to COVID-19 restrictions when it comes to compliance with the requirements around service time and repatriation.

“AMSA has adopted a pragmatic approach and we will consider the issue of extending periods of service on board ships and accept that there may be a need to apply flexibility under the circumstances.”

The regulator said vessel owners and operators should be aware such requests would be considered on a “case-by-case” basis.

Owners and operators are required to provide a plan detailing why flexibility under the MLC is required.

“This will include how the process will be managed and demonstrate that the ship’s flag state authority, the seafarer and relevant seafarer organisations have been involved and agree with the plan,” AMSA stated.

“Where repatriation is not possible at certain ports vessel operators must have an agreed plan for seafarers to be repatriated at the first available opportunity.”

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