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30 Filipino seafarers abandoned by Chinese vessel employer

30 Filipino seafarers abandoned by Chinese vessel employer
January 4, 2023

MORE than 30 Filipino crewmembers of the livestock carrier, Yangtze Fortune, are stranded in Australia and reportedly abandoned by the registered vessel owner Soar Harmony Shipping of China.

According to the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), Yangtze Fortune has been arrested in Portland, Victoria by the Australian Federal Court.

Built in 2005 in China as a containership, the vessel has at least five different names and many managers and registered owners. The 4,800 dwt ship carried livestock between Australia and China with a crew of about 30. On its last trip, it was expected to load 5,200 heads of cattle bound for China.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and the ITF are working with the Admiralty Marshall to support the crew after the shipowner failed to pay their wages or meet its obligations under international maritime law.

The ship, which is registered in Liberia, has been anchored near Portland since October and is subject to Australian Court proceedings brought by commercial creditors from Singapore to recover debts owed to them by the shipowner.

Provisions aboard the ship are running low and many of the crew are desperate to return home but must now stay with the ship to wait for the court decision.

"These workers are already owed, collectively, more than a quarter of a million dollars in unpaid wages, and while the court action is on foot they must stay with their ship despite the ever diminishing prospect of receiving what is owed to them" ITF Australian Inspectorate Coordinator Ian Bray said.

Ship documents show that the crew received only one-third of what they were owed in October, and the ITF's investigation has also revealed that the crew's wages payments in both September and August were made using monies set aside for workers' leave and the company's provident fund.

ITF Australia's Assistant Coordinator, Matt Purcell, who is providing support to the crew, said that five members of the crew had already worked eight months aboard the vessel.

"These vulnerable, exploited crews face the prospect of spending months longer aboard this ship in dreadful conditions just to get what's already owed to them, or the choice of returning home after 8 or 9 months away with nothing to show for it," he said.