12 May 2008

Another foreign Problem Ship docks in Cork

Another foreign cargo vessel with unacceptable conditions aboard has been found in an Irish port. The ship, which arrived at Ringaskiddy ferryport of Cork harbour Saturday morning, is the Lady Chiara, a 16,282 tonne tanker registered in Liberia, which makes her a ship under a 'flag of convenience' (and that often means trouble and the absence of proper rules). After an inspection the International Transport Federation (ITF) has described conditions aboard as "appalling".

The ITF inspector in Ireland, Ken Fleming (right, with Filipino crew members of the Lady Chiara), went aboard with SIPTU officials from Cork and said that there was insufficient food for the Filipino crew. The situation was in fact so dire that the union had to take crew members off the ship and provide them with a meal in a local restaurant.
The ITF inspector has called on the Department of the Marine port control authorities to inspect the ship. Ken Fleming said the Filipino seafarers had not been provided with adequate food for a fortnight, but the officers seemed to be looking quite well after themselves.

Port workers in Cork have agreed to discharge the ship's cargo of molasses (a cane sugar product, used in Ireland predominantly to feed animals), provided that the crew is properly provisioned and that wage and payment problems aboard are resolved.

However, the cargo itself has also raised some eyebrows in maritime circles. According to her registration papers the Lady Chiara is classified as a "tanker for chemicals and oil", and not as a transporter of any food stuffs. That alone calls for an extra inspection, especially with regards to food safety standards and general hygiene.

The 170-metre-long vessel, which was built in 1986 by Odense Staalskibsværft A/S in Denmark, is managed by Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (Cyprus) Company Ltd., based in Cyprus (another of the 'flag of convenience' countries).
Her apparent owners are Amju International Tanker Ltd. of Monrovia, the capital and main port of Liberia. But there was some speculation in Cork over the correct ownership of the vessel.

Less than three weeks ago Ken Fleming settled the problems of another foreign cargo ship held in Cork, the Latvian-owned MV Defender, sailing under the flag (of convenience) of Cambodia. (for details of that case see my entry from April 22nd) And as things are in international shipping, we should expect more of the same in the future. Sadly greed rules many of the shipping businesses, and most national governments are still not willing to regulate the conditions for working at sea. So it is down to the commendable efforts of the ITF and men like Ken Fleming to fight for fair working conditions on the world's oceans.

The Emerald Islander

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