Seafarers onboard a flag of convenience ship detained in the UK port of Runcorn were on wages as low as 85 US cents an hour – and were found to be owed almost US$43,000 in back pay following checks by Nautilus/ITF inspector Tommy Molloy.
He has lodged protests with the ship's Turkish owners and the Panama ship registry over the shocking conditions onboard the 1,596gt general cargoship Seccadi.
Wages identified on the contracts for the Turkish and Indian crew of the vessel were below International Labour Organisation minimums and ranged between US$250 and US$700 per month for ABs.
Mr Molloy said there was no fresh fruit, vegetables or meat onboard the ship and there was a cockroach infestation in the galley. 'When crew are not paid for more than two months, not repatriated and do not have the basic food requirements to sustain a healthy diet, then they are considered to have been abandoned,' he added.
Mr Molloy said the crew had been promised owed wages when the ship called at Rijeka, Croatia, in May but nothing was forthcoming. The deficiencies amounted to a clear breach of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), he added, and the owners have another vessel detained in the port of Sharpness and another in Thirsk – both with similar problems.
'Despite the MLC 2006 we still see too many owners operating in this way,' he added. 'Human beings – in the form of crew – seem to be nothing more than a necessary evil to them. 85 cents per hour – when lucky enough to get paid – and no food or repatriation doesn't seem like too many levels up from slavery to me.'
Mr Molloy added: 'The North West Port Welfare Committee and the good people of Merseyside are rallying round and have taken it upon themselves to look after the crew's welfare. Fresh fruit and vegetables have been provided by the Seafarers Centre, who are also ensuring they have adequate shore leave as a diversion from their plight. Others have offered cash donations to cover their basic needs. That they do so speaks volumes for their good hearts. That they have to in 2017 is a disgrace.'
He said an appeal had also been made to the vessel's insurers – Lodestar Marine – to meet their obligations to pay and repatriate the crew. 'They have told us their enquiries are continuing and in the meantime the UK Border Force has given notice to remove – deport – the crew, and I can only conclude that the insurers would prefer this, with all of the negative ramifications for the crew, rather than paying out as we believe they are required to.'
When crew are not paid for more than two months, not repatriated and do not have the basic food requirements to sustain a healthy diet, then they are considered to have been abandoned