The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has banned two foreign-flagged bulk carriers from Australian ports after their crews reported that they had been underpaid.
Following intervention on behalf of the crews by the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), the Panama-flagged Fortune Genius and the Hong Kong-registered Xing Jing Hai were banned for 12 months and 18 months respectively.
AMSA surveyors in Gladstone boarded the Chinese owned Fortune Genius on 5 September, after receiving an ITF complaint that New Fortune Genius Management, the ship's operator, had deliberately underpaid eight crew members by about AUD$100,000 from April to August.
The vessel had been operating with two sets of wage accounts, one showing the amount of wages the crew should have been paid and the other showing what they had actually been paid. The men said they had been bullied and forced into working excessive hours for which they were not paid. They asked for repatriation to Myanmar due to concerns for their safety if they remained on the vessel. The ITF accused the company of 'wage theft.'
In a separate move, AMSA inspectors in Brisbane boarded the Xing Jing Hai on 11 September, following similar ITF complaints. Crew members said they had been paid late for May and June while July and August wages amounting to about AUD$140,000 were still outstanding.
The operator, Dalian Ocean Prosperity International Ship Management, previously had been warned over unpaid wages with a sister ship, the Xing Ning Hai.
Both ships were banned from Australia by the AMSA on 13 September.
AMSA General Manager of Operations Allan Schwartz said: 'Failure to pay crew their wages in full and on time is a reprehensible breach of the Maritime Labor Convention and one that AMSA will not tolerate.
'The operator of the Fortune Genius has acted in a dishonest and predatory fashion towards its seafarers while the operator of the Xing Jing Hai has demonstrated a systemic failure to ensure its seafarers are paid properly. Our powers to ban ships for breaches of international maritime regulations are clear and these two operators will not make a profit in our waters on the back of modern-day slave labour.'