PANAMANIAN bulker Fortune Genius (9221877) has been detained at Gladstone following claims by the International Transport Workers Federation of crew underpayment.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said their port marine surveyors attended the vessel on Thursday night at Gladstone, with the inspection continuing on Friday.

The surveyors interviewed the crew and reviewed documentation to determine if the seafarers were being paid in accordance with their Seafarer Employment Agreements as required under the Maritime Labour Convention.

“AMSA discovered that the ship was operating with two sets of wage accounts on board,” the AMSA statement read.

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“One set of accounts showed the amount of pay the crew should have been receiving in line with their Seafarer Employment Agreements and the other showed what the crew were actually receiving.”

According to AMSA, the crew were found to be “deliberately under paid by about US $50,000 (AUD$73,000), with records indicating this practice had been going on since April this year”.

“The vessel was detained by AMSA for breaching the MLC and will not be released until AMSA is satisfied the crew have received their outstanding wages and the company can demonstrate to AMSA that a repeat will not occur,” the AMSA statement read.

“AMSA understands that a number of the crew on board have requested to leave the vessel as is their right under the MLC, AMSA will be working with the operator to ensure that this is facilitated.

“AMSA has made it very clear that breaches of the MLC will not be tolerated in Australian waters and we will be working over the coming days to ensure the crew receive their full entitlements.”

The Fortune Genius is owned by Marine Fortune Union Company from China, managed by its subsidiary New Fortune Genius Management, and had been chartered by Korean company Five Ocean Corporation to transport coal from Gladstone to Taean.

ITF assistant coordinator Matt Purcell said their inspector was told by the eight crew members from Myanmar they had been “massively underpaid” and wanted help to leave the ship and go home.

“We will be working with AMSA and the ship owner to ensure they are paid their outstanding wages and repatriated to Myanmar before the vessel is allowed to leave Gladstone,” he said.

“AMSA must also investigate the Myanmar-based manning agents responsible for recruiting this crew.”

ITF president Paddy Crumlin said the incident showed the importance of strengthening shipping laws.

“The detention of this vessel by AMSA is welcome, but the current system relies on the efforts of ITF inspectors and whistle-blowers among ship crews to identify problems, meaning countless cases of exploitation are slipping through the gaps,” Mr Crumlin said.

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