THE detention of a Hong Kong bulker at Brisbane with $100,000 in unpaid wages highlights a larger issue of the exploitation of mariners, according to the International Transport Workers Federation.

MV Xing Jing Hai, a clinker carrier, was detained by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority just days after coal carrier MV Fortune Genius was detained at Gladstone.

The ITF says it wrote to AMSA seeking an audit of a third vessel in Port Kembla, owned by the same company as the MV Xing Jing Hai.

ITF assistant coordinator Matt Purcell said the fact three cases had been identified in a short period of time highlighted “serious exploitation” in Australia’s maritime supply chains.


“AMSA deserves to be commended for acting swiftly once issues are identified, 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 Purcell said.

“Without the actions of the ITF, not one of these vessels would have been inspected, which is why so many companies think they can get away with rampant exploitation in Australian waters.”

ITF president Paddy Crumlin said the cases highlighted the need for stronger shipping laws.

“In recent decades, the number of Australian-flagged vessels has been slashed, with local seafarers replaced by exploited foreign crews on ships registered in notorious tax havens,” Mr Crumlin said.

“The country is now almost entirely dependent on foreign flag of convenience vessels.

“What these three incidents show is that this isn’t an occasional issue involving one rogue operator, it’s a central part of the business model of a growing number of companies that are contracted to supply Australia’s fuel, carry our resources, and move cargo to and from our ports.”