23 Jul 2015

Crew of arrested ship to receive some money

3:21 pm on 23 July 2015

The crew of a ship, detained at the Port of Tauranga, have finally received some money after not being paid for a number of months.

They have also been given temporary visas which allows them to go ashore.

The vessel Lancelot V, a Greek-owned and Panamanian flagged bulk carrier, has been in the port for three weeks after it was arrested on behalf of its charterers for breach of contract.

She was also detained by Maritime New Zealand when her annual classification certificates expired.

A Maritime New Zealand inspection carried out in Auckland before the ship sailed for Tauranga revealed defects to several of its cranes.

The crew of 18, who are mainly Russian, Ukrainian and Filipino have had to remain on board the ship because their visas had expired.

International Transport Workers' Federation New Zealand Inspector Grahame McLaren said until now the crew had been virtual prisoners on board the ship.

"Conditions [on board] have been OK but there has been shortages of food at some periods and there has also been no wages coming through over the last couple of months."

Mr McLaren said $US23,000 had now been obtained as interim wages to help the crew out.

The men will remain living on board but were free to come and go.

"At least now they can go ashore and do a bit of shopping or have a walk around."

Mr McLaren said the federation was trying to get repatriation for the men back to their home countries and back-pay estimated to be over $US100,000.

He said up until now the ship's Greek owners have had absolutely no contact with the federation and have just ignored all of their correspondence.

He said it looked like they had just walked away and it was thought the vessel would be put up for sale and if sold, and that everyone would be paid out.

This had now changed.

"We got news last night that the owners are now negotiating in London with the chatterers."

Mr McLaren said that was all "well and good" but the ship would not be going anywhere until the crew were paid and the ones who wanted to go home were able to do so.

He said it was "totally inhumane" to treat the crew the way they had been.

He said the men had been "down-in-the-dumps" and desperate to get home.

Mr McLaren said one bit of good news was that the federation had managed to get the men's wages bumped up to ITF rates.

"Their wages before that were below International Labour Organisation minimum's."

The ILO minimum is $US1000 per month.

"They were [being paid] well below that." he said.

Mr McLaren said they had been able to push them up to about $US1800.

"Some of them are quite happy to receive the new wages and to stay on board now, while others definitely still want to go home."