Sunday, April 20, 2008

Slave Sailors

Here is a story I just heard on the news that really pisses me off. The International Transport Federation will attempt on Monday to secure $125,000 (€80,000) in owed wages and penalties from the owners of a Latvian ship currently detained in Cork harbour.

The Defender and its crew have been detained since Thursday after €45,000 worth of undeclared cigarettes was discovered. What makes anyone think they can smuggle that amount of cigarettes into a country when the port authorities check everything?

It was also found that the nine crew have not been paid since the start of the year. That pisses me off to hear this because they are basically slaves. It is understood one of the crew was arrested by GardaĆ­ and customs yesterday afternoon in relation to the cigarettes find.

Earlier, the ITF claimed a representative of the ship’s owners, Forestry Shipping, came to Ireland to pay customs €15,000. The monies owed to the crew by their employers was initially thought to total $92,500 (€58,000). However, Ken Fleming of the transport federation now claims the outstanding wages is $100,000 (€63,500) and he wants $25,000 (€16,000) in breach of contract and overtime penalties. All the crew are supposed to have agreed federation minimum rates, but Mr Fleming said those contracts had been abandoned and new ones forced upon the crew. The ITF inspector said two of the crew had been paid in advance of sailing in January and one had received just $100 (€63.50) for 100 hours’ work. He has already been made power of attorney for four of the nine crew and hopes to secure several more over the weekend. A number of the seamen have asked to be repatriated once they have received their owed monies. In addition, Mr Fleming said he has secured an undertaking from the Port State Authority to stop the vessel from leaving Cork port over the weekend.

Yesterday, the crew was trying to rectify structural issues which the port authority had found on board the Defender. Mr Fleming says Forestry Shipping claims to have paid all monies owed to the crew, but a third party may have taken some of the payments. The ITF was monitoring the vessel for the past two weeks after colleagues in Russia tipped them off. The previous captain of the Defender had put in a wages claim for $15,000 (€9,500).

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