The ITF received a complaint from the 19 Indian crew members on 23 January 2017 that they had not been paid since 25 November 2016. The men had been stranded at the port of Zhoushan, China for between 8 and 13 months, and their outstanding wages totalled USD 182,730 up to the end of March.
ITF inspectors Jason Lam (Hong Kong) and Louis Gomes (Mumbai, India) initiated negotiations with the owner. They won a month’s wages on 8 March, totaling USD 34,287, and the repatriation of three seafarers from China on 25 March.
The rest of the crew refused to leave until they were paid in full, so the ITF and two of its unions – the Merchant Navy Officers’ Guild-Hong Kong (MNOG) and the Amalgamated Union of Seafarers, Hong Kong (AUS) – began legal action on 5 May on the seafarers’ behalf in Hong Kong’s High Court. The owner eventually reached a settlement agreement with the 16 remaining crew on 29 June.
They were paid the agreed wages in full – USD 264,600 – and were finally repatriated from China to India on 23 July.
In a letter, the crew said: ‘This all happens due to the strong and early step and action taken by crew and helping authority (ITF/Human Rights at Sea/Arctic Offshore/ISWAN/Indian consulate) against odd and inhuman practices. We seafarers feel safe and secure, their strong support acts like a backbone for us.’
ITF maritime co-ordinator Jacqueline Smith commented that the case should send a strong message to all seafarers that ITF inspectors and trade unions were vital champions in their fight against injustice and exploitation.