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Australia: Crew of a ship owned by Greek co. Evalend at BHP terminal allegedly underpaid and neglected

A recent media report published by the World Maritime News (linked below) claims that crew aboard Liberian-flagged ship Villa Deste owned by the Greek company, Evalend Shipping Company S.A., were neglected, with limited food, and underpaid whilst berthed at a BHP terminal in Queensland, Australia. 

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Evalend Shipping & BHP to respond to these allegations. The companies' responses are also linked below.

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Article
3 March 2019

ITF Claims Crew Neglected aboard Ship at BHP Terminal

Author: World Maritime News

13 February 2019

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) claims that crew members aboard a ship at a BHP terminal in Queensland are being neglected and underpaid.

The claim is based on a seafarer's email allegedly sent from aboard the 80,000-tonne bulk carrier Villa Deste to the ITF.

As explained by the union, the worker pleaded for help claiming the crew had no food and no onboard wages. They were reportedly being fed on a $4 food budget per day, despite having an $8 allowance.

ITF said BHP is continuing to block the union's requests to inspect the vessel....

The Liberian-flagged Villa Deste is owned by a Greek company Evalend Shipping Company S.A.....

Read the full post here

Article
15 February 2019

BHP's response

Author: BHP

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited BHP to respond to allegations published by the World Maritime News that crew aboard Liberian-flagged ship Villa Deste owned by the Greek company, Evalend Shipping Company S.A., were neglected, with limited food, as well as being underpaid whilst berthed at a BHP terminal in Queensland, Australia.

The company responded:

"When concerns were raised, the MV Villa Deste was anchored off Hay Point Coal Terminal. Hay Point Coal Terminal is located near Mackay in central Queensland, Australia and is owned and operated by BHP Mitsubishi Alliance ("BMA"). The MV Villa Deste is not a vessel controlled or chartered by BHP. It has been chartered by a customer.

Due to production scheduling, berthing of the vessel at the terminal was delayed and concerns were raised by the International Transport Workers Federation ("ITF") that the crew were starving and not receiving adequate payment whilst on board. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority ("AMSA"), the relevant authority, were notified. AMSA contacted the vessel's owners and Captain and confirmed there were sufficient food supplies for a further week. AMSA subsequently confirmed that status with BHP. We understand that the vessel's agent nonetheless provided the vessel with fresh food supplies on Friday 15 February 2019, via helicopter, to ensure the vessel was well provisioned for any unforeseen delays. A BHP representative also contacted the vessel's owners and Captain regarding the concerns raised.

The Hay Point Coal Terminal was contacted by the ITF to arrange inspection of the vessel upon berthing at the terminal. Neither BHP nor BMA is entitled to grant access to the vessel itself – the vessel's Captain and owner have the authority to determine who will be granted access to the vessel. To ensure worker safety and security at Hay Point Coal Terminal, access to the site is restricted to people who are essential to loading operations, and those with lawful authority to access. The ITF were advised to contact the vessel's owner or agent to arrange access to the vessel by other means.

AMSA boarded the vessel on 28 February 2019 after it berthed at Hay Point Coal Terminal. AMSA representatives confirmed to BHP that the crew had food provisions for a further seven days and that additional provisions would be supplied on 1 March 2019, prior to the vessel leaving port. After conducting interviews with a number of the crew members, AMSA confirmed to BHP that there is no cause for concern regarding wage underpayment.

BHP is committed to operating in a manner consistent with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Human Rights and takes the welfare of seafarers very seriously. We work closely with regulators to seek to ensure the rights of seafarers are respected on the vessels we charter."

Download the full document here

Company response
15 February 2019

Evalend Shipping's response

Author: Kriton Lentoudis, Evalend Shipping Company

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Evalend Shipping to respond to allegations published by the World Maritime News that crew aboard Liberian-flagged ship Villa Deste owned by the Greek company, Evalend Shipping Company S.A., were neglected, with limited food, as well as being underpaid whilst berthed at a BHP terminal in Queensland, Australia. 

The company responded:

"Thank you...for the opportunity to  respond  to  these  false  allegations. The position  is that  the information published by the ITF is totally inaccurate. 

As soon as this matter was brought to our attention, we contacted the Master of the vessel to request clarification and to  enquire as to whether any relevant complaints have been made by any of the crew members. The  Master’s  response  was  that no such complaint has  been  made by  any crew  member for any  other reason whatsoever. To the contrary, the crew are happy with the conditions on board the vessel, which as you may know is brand new- as she is less than 6 months old. We  were further  advised than neither of  the crew  members  had in fact contacted  the ITF and/or  made any  such statements. In fact, the crew  members were quite surprised to  hear that  such  an  issue  exists  and  have confirmed that they  are all  happy and  satisfied  with the  provisions  on board. 

The crew were certainly never ‘starving’ and neither have they not been paid. Both statements are completely inaccurate and therefore nothing short of libelous.  The vessel has been supplied regularly with supplies/provisions of good quality and of course there are no outstanding wages to the crew.

Please also kindly note that the Master has been in direct contact with AMSA who made an  enquiry following the ITF’s defamatory statements. No issue exists.

Further to the above  and  for the  avoidance of  any  doubt, with  regards to  the further allegations on ITF’s  site about another  managed  vessel - the M/V Penelope,  the  position is that no  complaints  have  ever  been  received  by  this office  from the crew of that  vessel  either.

As you  may  be  aware,   if any  crew  member has  any  complaints  then  there is an  applicable  procedure under the  Maritime Labour Convention  in which  they can  present their  complaints. No such complaint has ever been presented either to the Master and/or  this  office and/or the  Vessel’s  Flag administration and/or  any  relevant  Port  State  Control on any  of the  vessels managed by  this office. This alone speaks volumes.

Finally, we wish  to  make it clear that these defamatory/ libelous  statements will  not  remain  unanswered.  It is simply  not up  to  the  ITF  or  anyone  else for that matter to  make  such  defamatory statements harming this  company’s  very  good  name and  reputation.  Legal action will therefore  be taken and in this respect we  are already  in touch  with our lawyers accordingly.

We  hope that the above clarifies the  position."