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Concerns About Crew Welfare After Seafarer Lost Overboard

The Maritime Union says that the loss overboard of a crew member aboard a bulk carrier is very concerning.

The UK-flagged Berge Rishiri left Bluff early on the morning of Saturday 27 August. The Chinese crew member was last seen at 8am on Saturday morning and failed to report for duty at 4pm.

Health and safety authority Maritime New Zealand have stated the crew member is presumed to have gone overboard off the Otago coast and the search is on hold.

Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says this kind of incident is more common than many people realize

He says New Zealand needs to be doing more to protect the welfare of international crews in our waters.

Mr Harrison says he would like Maritime New Zealand to investigate whether the crew were having adequate rest breaks, and that they were not required to secure any cargo while underway.

He says it is a common practice with some New Zealand stevedores with low standards to have overseas seafarers lash cargo when the vessel is underway, rather than shore based stevedores doing the work in port.

The sea time the crew member had been working for also needed to be investigated, he says.

“We would like to know how long the seafarer had been at sea and on duty and have assurances they were not kept on the vessel longer than their contracted period, as we have seen huge mental health issues with Seafarers basically kept captive on vessels for months and sometimes years.”

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Mr Harrison says the Maritime Union and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) would like the opportunity to meet the crew and talk about their welfare, and what the shipping company and also the company and the cargo owners are doing for the crew and family of the lost seafarer.

He says incidents like this can be a red flag of other potential issues aboard ships.

“These crew members are in New Zealand waters, their work is essential for New Zealand, and in our view their rights and welfare are often overlooked.”

Mr Harrison says New Zealand authorities must do a full investigation into this incident.

FACTS about seafarers

There are around 400,000 Seafarers working on cargo vessels globally and official figures show that between 2015 – 2019, 527 were killed at sea and 509 went missing.

Last year, International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) ship inspectors recovered more than USD $37 million in unpaid wages owed to seafarers.

Seafarers’ rights can be found in a range of sources. All seafarers have rights under the International Labour Organization’s Maritime Labour Convention – sometimes called ‘The Seafarers’ Bill of Rights’. But crew will also likely have rights applicable to them under various national laws, flag State regulations and collective bargaining agreements.

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