THE Australian Maritime Safety Authority has banned MV Maryam for 36 months after what AMSA says is one of the longest detentions of a foreign ship in Australian waters.

“This is unprecedented,” the authority said in a recent statement.

AMSA detained the Panama-flagged bulk carrier at Port Kembla on 19 February for deficiencies including issues with its safety equipment and inoperative electricity generators.

AMSA deemed the ship unseaworthy.

Deplorable conditions

Living and working conditions onboard were deplorable by any standard and were in breach of the Maritime Labour Convention. AMSA said the ship had no running water, no sanitary facilities and no ventilation.

Days after AMSA detained Maryam, it also detained its sister ship, Movers 3, at Weipa, for unacceptable conditions. Both ships are operated by Aswan Shipping,

When Movers 3’s failures had been rectified on 29 April 2021, AMSA released it from detention and immediately issued it with an 18-month ban.

AMSA executive director, operations Allan Schwartz said Maryam had an even more protracted detention than Movers 3 because of subsequent issues that arose with the ship as the months dragged by.

“Disenfranchised with the operator’s continued reluctance to meet its most basic obligations to maintain its ships and provide decent working and living conditions for crew, roughly half of Maryam’s original crew demanded repatriation,” Mr Schwartz said.

“On 28 May 2021, that finally happened off Brisbane, with 10 of the original crew being replaced with fresh crew who had recently completed quarantine in Queensland.”

Longest ban

Mr Schwartz said AMSA and other parties involved had to “drag” the ships’ operator Aswan Shipping to the table to resolve the systemic failures on its ships.

“Banning the Maryam for 36 months from Australian ports is the longest ever issued by AMSA. The length of the banning reflects the seriousness of the operator’s failures to manage the welfare of its seafarers and the standard of maintenance of its ships,” Mr Schwartz said.

“Aswan shipping has been conspicuous in its absence throughout the detention of Maryam and Movers 3. This has been beyond disappointing.”

Mr Schwartz said AMSA bans vessels as a last resort, only using bans when other actions are not delivering the required deterrent or behavioural changes. They send an unambiguous message to industry that AMSA does not accept sub-standard ships in Australian waters.

“The consequences for bringing sub-standard ships like Movers 3 and Maryam to Australia are both financially and reputationally costly,” Mr Schwartz said.

“Our message could not be clearer – sub-standard ships that fail to meet internationally agreed safety standards and labour conditions are not welcome in Australian waters.

Mr Schwartz said Aswan Shipping is officially on notice.

“Any of its ships entering Australian waters will be closely monitored by AMSA and subjected to more frequent inspections as a result of the systemic failures we have found across this operator’s fleet,” he said.

AMSA thanked to all the Australian businesses, organisations, and people who have helped to resolve the situation with the Movers 3 and the Maryam.

Sailing to Vietnam

The International Transport Workers’ Federation said Maryam was now sailing to Vietnam to undertake urgent repairs following the replacement of the remaining crew members.

“After more than three months in detention, with much of that time spent floating off Port Kembla and Brisbane, the remaining seafarers have finally been able to leave the vessel and fly home, with a replacement crew taking the bulk carrier for urgent repairs,” ITF Australia co-ordinator Ian Bray said.

“The situation facing seafarers onboard was absolutely appalling, with the 23 crew members critically short of food, water, and fuel. The ITF found that many of the seafarers were working well past the expiry of their contracts, desperate to go home, and owed thousands of dollars in unpaid income.”

Mr Bray said the extremely poor state of maintenance was also highlighted when the vessel’s one remaining anchor broke free, resulting in Australian authorities having the crew sail 50 nautical miles offshore to reduce the risk of an engine failure causing the vessel to run aground.

“The repatriated crew members have now confirmed that they are safely home and have offered their sincere thanks to everyone in Australia who was involved in assisting them,” he said.

Mr Bray said the ITF welcomed the record ban imposed against Aswan Shipping, but warned that the significant abuses were becoming increasingly common in Australia’s maritime supply chains.

“Vessels with similarly appalling labour conditions continue to be used to transport goods to and from Australian ports, forming part of the supply chains of major Australian businesses,” he said.

“The Australian government needs to do more to crack down on these abuses, with more resources for inspections, tougher enforcement of Australian laws and the Maritime Labour Convention, and a tightening of the temporary license system for coastal shipping.”