Capesize FIVE STAR FUJIAN story. Who’s victim, crew or owner?
Australian media on Monday burst with news on dramatic, near-horror story of a capesize bulk carrier FIVE STAR FUJIAN, hopelessly stranded off Gladstone, Australia, since July 19. Crew weren’t paid for “more than two months”, supplies are low, Australian ITF and Mission to Seafarers yell bloody murder, and launched full-scale rescue operation, involving tugs, Mission to Seafarers Council, media, and up to $10,000 Mission to Seafarers commitment, to save the crew. In no Australian media will one find any other opinion or version, except ITF heated comments in their routine style.
It is understood from what ITF said, and from media remarks, that vessel is banned from leaving Australia, until wages are paid in full (Under the Maritime Labour Convention, of which Australia is a signatory, the vessel couldn’t move until the crew’s wages are paid). Vessel is in full load, cargo is coal. If one tracks bulk carriers sailings from Australia to Asia, one will soon spot a number of vessels, laying dead in waters all the way up from Australia to Asia, waiting for berth, or buyer, or whatever. There’s nothing unusual in delays in a present market situation.
Two months wage delay, ITF said. Who’s to confirm it, and to find out, just how true is this statement? Who’s to find out, whether crew is really all that desperate, or is instigated by ITF inspectors, or maybe, they’re as surprised to find out about their desperate situation, as any other person? FIVE STAR FUJIAN and at least one more capesize bulk carrier, FIVE STARS BEIJING, are operated by Chinese MCL Shipping, Qingdao. Both vessels were built in Japan in 2009-2010, it’s not some cheap stuff.
But MCL Shipping happened to miss one very important nowadays thing, company doesn’t have an agreement with ITF, which in translation from ITF language means, that company doesn’t pay regular extortion “fee” to ITF.
FIVE STARS BEIJING is anchored on Kaohsiung anchorage since January this year, most probably vessel’s in a lay-up, no wonder these days. It may be so, that FIVE STAR FUJIAN trip was to make a day for the company, at least in short-time period. Nothing unusual, it happens in shipping business every now and then. Who knows, maybe this mishap will be the last straw to break camel’s back, to make the owner bankrupt. Crew may get their wage debt, and lose their job, no one cares less than ITF.
No doubt, industry media will highlight this story in their usual “objective and impartial” manner, they’re above judgments, as we all know. We all know, also, that there are unwritten rules and taboos, which reign over industry, and not only industry, media. I have in my archives more than one case of ITF inspectors power abuse, some of them being blatantly criminal. ITF enjoys absolute immunity, and we all know that. Very few people in shipping, including seafarers, like ITF, and we all know that. But ITF fights evil, isn’t it? ITF fights ship owners, who’re evil by default, and to become good, they have to pay ransom to ITF.
This FIVE STAR FUJIAN story may be more or less what ITF said it is, or it may be absolutely different story, how we’re to find out the truth, if there’s no one to investigate and talk to all concerned parties?
When I come across stories of abandoned vessels and crews, I drop them as soon as I find out, that the whole story was initiated by ITF, simply because there’s no way to figure out what’s going on in reality.
August 15, 2016