Seafarers stranded aboard a livestock carrier vessel abandoned off the Australian coast have finally been repaid their missing wages and repatriated home with the assistance of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).
The Yangtze Fortune (IMO: 9336282) was arrested in Portland, Victoria by the Australian Federal Court in December 2022 and shortly after it was abandoned by its Hong Kong owners. Throughout the months since, the ITF has been working with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and the country’s federal Admiralty Marshall to support the crew and fight for complete restitution of the crew’s missing wages.
The ship, which was registered under the Liberian flag, has operated on a regular trading route between Australia and China in recent years. The Fortune was anchored near Portland, western Victoria, where the crew have languished since the vessel’s detention in September last year. The ship’s planned voyage to China with a cargo of live cattle was cancelled when a crack was discovered in the ship’s hull.
The vessel then became subject to an abandonment notice lodged with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) by the ITF. The ship was also subject to Australian Federal Court proceedings brought by commercial creditors from Singapore to recover debts owed to them by the ship’s owner.
The ITF’s Australian Inspectorate Coordinator, Ian Bray, said in December that the more than 30 crew members, all of whom hail from the Philippines, had been abandoned by their employer on the stranded ship.
“These workers had to stay with their abandoned ship while sale processes were afoot in order to ensure they would receive compensation and backpay for the months of wages that had been withheld from them by their employers”, Bray said.
Records indicated that, collectively, the stranded seafarers were owed more than a quarter of a million dollars in unpaid wages. The ITF’s forensic investigation of pay records also revealed that the crew’s wages payments in both September and August of last year had been made using monies set aside for workers’ leave entitlements and the company’s provident fund.
An initial group of crew, approximately 20, were permitted to depart Portland in January, however 16 crew were required by Australian law to remain on board to respond to any emergencies.
The remaining original crew will return to shore in Portland for the final time today before travelling to Melbourne and boarding a flight to Manila. A replacement crew, supplied by the ship’s new owner, has now relieved them.
The ITF fought to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the crew for the months they’ve been stuck in Australian waters, but crucially the local Inspectorate team has delivered wage justice that might otherwise have been robbed from crew without the ITF’s industrial and legal intervention.