ITF: Seafarers Provide Insight on Working Conditions on Blumenthal Vessels

Anna ElisabethImage Courtesy: International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF)

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has shared details provided by current and former seafarers regarding alleged exploitative working conditions aboard Blumenthal vessels.

The ITF said it had been contacted by current and ex-crew members who told 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,” Jacqueline Smith, ITF maritime coordinator, said.

The Blumenthal whistle blowers, who have requested to remain anonymous due to fears of retaliation, told of cases of forced overtime, withholding of wages, discrimination based on nationality and a lack of access essential provisions like food and water, according to ITF.

“We are forced 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,” ITF quoted one current Blumenthal seafarer as saying.

“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.

A 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 drink tank water but that water even not good for washing.”

These stories follow the detention of Blumenthal’s Anna Elisabeth at Port Kembla in Australia on March 26, after an inspection revealed deficiencies in manning, seafarers employment agreements, access to shore leave and food provisions.

The ITF on May 20 called on the German government and the maritime industry to join the ITF in strongly condemning Blumenthal’s treatment of seafarers.

The union has also launched an operation against the German shipping company over what it says is the company’s “continued refusal to recognise seafarers’ welfare and rights.” Launched in April, the operation will see the ITF Inspectorate auditing the Blumenthal fleet in ports around the world.

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