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Australia's longest ever shipping ban issued for 'unbearable' conditions and 'systemic' failures

Australia's longest ever shipping ban issued for 'unbearable' conditions and 'systemic' failures
Kelly Fuller 30 May 2021

Australian maritime authorities have taken the unprecedented step of banning a flag-of-convenience ship from Australian waters for 36 months for "unbearable" conditions and "systemic" failures.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) detained the Panama-flagged bulk carrier MV Maryam on February 19.

The Qatari-owned vessel was docked at Port Kembla for 36 safety and crew welfare deficiencies.

After speaking to the ship's captain and crew, AMSA inspectors found the owner, Aswan Shipping had failed to pay key contracts, leaving the ship without fuel for the engine, power and lighting.

Days later its sister ship, Movers 3, was detained in Weipa, Queensland for unacceptable conditions.

Once its problems had been rectified it was hit with an 18-month ban.

In March, the Maritime Union of Australia slammed the "horrific" conditions on board the MV Maryam while it was docked in Port Kembla.

The union said the crew was having to lift buckets of seawater on board just to be able to use the toilets.

On April 21 the ship was relocated to anchorage off Port Kembla but remained in detention.

Mental health concerns

In May the Mission to Seafarers at Port Kembla raised concerns about the crew's mental health and provided a care package including essential items.

The organisation also helped repatriate two of 12 crew – most from Syria and Turkey – who were demanding to be sent home.

Weeks later the ship's anchor broke in dangerous seas and the vessel was left idling more than 50 nautical miles off the Wollongong coast.

It also suffered a communications outage and AMSA sent in a rescue aircraft to deliver a satellite telephone to the crew.

Three-year ban

After a lengthy investigation AMSA issued a 36-month ban.

The ban was issued after the remaining ten seafarers were replaced with fresh staff in Brisbane after completing quarantine.

Operations executive director Allan Schwartz said Aswan Shipping had to be dragged 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," he said.

"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.

"Aswan shipping has been conspicuous in its absence throughout the detention of Maryam and Movers 3.

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

'Raised the bar'

Mission to Seafarers Port Kembla chaplain John Kewa welcomed the result.

"The crew became like family for the months of their detention, sharing their dreams of returning home," he said.

"One seafarer had to cancel his wedding because he was stranded at sea for so long.

"[The ban] has raised the bar not only for safety and security but welfare.

Aswan Shipping has been contacted for a response.