Ship detained in port near Bristol after ‘modern day slavery’ conditions found on board

A ship has been detained indefinitely after authorities found crew members living off sea water and out-of-date food.

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Described as having conditions close to ‘modern day slavery’, the Panama-registered Tahsin has been prevented from sailing from Sharpness by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Maritime officials found failings with navigation equipment, invalid employment contracts, non-payment of wages, damage to cargo and expired licenses.

They also found that there had been no potable water on the cargo ship for over ten days – and the crew had been living on sea water.

Ex-riverman and former Gloucester city councillor Chris Witts said: “I am shocked to think that owners of these vessels treat their crews as slave labour.

“In these modern times there is no excuse for crews to be treated this way.”

The 81 metre, 1598-tonne ship has been berthed at the docks, on the river Severn near Berkeley, since May 31. It will not be going anywhere until its long list of problems is resolved.

The ship set off from Turkey on March 25 and stopped in Italy on April 27 before it reached Sharpness, where a crew member lodged a complaint about outstanding wages and drinking water.

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), which investigated the complaint, said none of the crew had been paid for at least three months.

ITF inspector Darren Proctor said: “The crew consisted of five Turkish crew, two Indians and two Georgians.

“None of them had been paid for three months – but the Indian crew had not been paid since joining in September and October 2016, and had had to pay to even get the jobs.

“One of the contracts, for an AB (able seaman), was illegally contracted for just $250 total per month.

“There were many findings onboard, including evidence of the crew drinking sea water, as there was no potable water on the ship for over 10 days.

“Other findings included out-of-date food, non-operational galley equipment and a genuine concern over the labour practices.

“The master thought it was acceptable to pay the crew every three months and not keep wage accounts.”

The MCA has since revisited the ship and has issued a list of further deficiencies.

These include inoperative ventilation in working spaces, missing nautical publications and certificates, an expired line-throwing appliance, and cargo and other hatchways damaged.

Mr Proctor said: “Following ITF intervention seven of the nine crew (the master still remains onboard and the cook only recently joined) were repatriated and paid in full.”

The case is one of three where crew have been supported by the ITF – and all three cases involve one owner, Voda Shipping of Istanbul, Turkey.

The other two ships are Reggae in Port of Leith, Scotland; and Seccadi in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire.

ITF seafarers’ section chairman Dave Heindel said: “The regulation exists to prevent this abuse from happening but some people seem to think it doesn’t apply to them.

“The Maritime and Coastguard Agency and UK Border Force deserve recognition for their efforts to enforce regulation intended to maintain decent standards for all seafarers – action by the flag state has yet to be seen.

“We are closely monitoring the operation of these provisions before we report them to the ILO (International Labour Organization) and IMO (International Maritime Organization).”

Mr Heindel added: “This cannot be tolerated.”

Source: www.bristolpost.co.uk, 30 August 2017

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