The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) have been contacted by current and ex-crew members who have told distressing stories of intimidation, threats and abusive conditions onboard the German shipping company’s global fleet.
“Seafarers have described atrocious stories of exploitation and discrimination on Blumenthal vessels, practices that have no place in the maritime industry,” said ITF maritime coordinator Jacqueline Smith.
The Blumenthal whistle blowers, who have requested to remain anonymous due to fears of retaliation, have detailed cases of forced overtime, withholding of wages, discrimination based on nationality and a lack of access essential provisions like food and water.
“We are force[d] to work more than the normal working hours and [overtime] is not paid … engine ratings are forced to do mooring operations and if something bad happened, they will not compensate with the involved crew. A lot of unpaid extra jobs … They have fixed wages for us so even if we do a lot of [overtime] and extra jobs, we are paid the same amount monthly,” said one current Blumenthal seafarer.
“They are also forcing to sign a waiver before arriving [in] a port with strong ITF union that states, we the crew of a certain [Blumenthal] vessel do not want to join the union and they are threatening us that if we report to the union they will sue us.
“The provisions are also worst. They'll send a supply for 1 month and will spend it for 2 months. Vegetables are limited and some fruits and provisions are given only for the officers. The allotment is always late and no cash advance onboard,” he added.
Another seafarer onboard another Blumenthal vessel complained about access to basic provisions: “We have only one case water [remaining] and now captain propose to us to drin[k] tank water but that water ev[e]n not good for washing.”
Former Blumenthal seafarers also urged the ITF to expose Blumenthal’s treatment of crew, with one saying, “[employers] like them should be exposed. They have no respect whatsoever to the crew who toiled, and continue to work, under their name,” and another saying, “please continue to hunt down these kind of operators they have no place in the maritime business.”
These disturbing stories follow the detention of Blumenthal’s Anna Elisabeth at Port Kembla in Australia on March 26, after an inspection revealed serious deficiencies in manning, seafarers employment agreements, access to shore leave and food provisions.
The ITF today called on the German government and the maritime industry to join the ITF in strongly condemning Blumenthal’s treatment of seafarers.
“What we are talking about here is the fundamental abuse of these seafarers’ rights. To be paid for the work that they perform. To be fed. To have the right to freely associate and be represented by a union,” said Smith.
“Today we urge the German government, charterers and the broader maritime industry to condemn Blumenthal’s exploitation of these workers, and join us in calling on the company’s president, Dr. Matthias-K. Reith, to bring all of the company’s vessels under ITF Agreements to ensure respect for seafarers’ rights, freedoms and working conditions,” concluded Smith.
Luke Menzies +61 433 889 844
Sven Hemme +49 1512 7037384