Alleged MARPOL contravention and MLC non-compliance

1st March 2021

Alleged MARPOL contravention and MLC non-compliance

Initial Report

Outline:

A report concerning alleged blatant contraventions of both the MARPOL and MLC international conventions. Under the MOU that exists between CHIRP Maritime and ISWAN, the following was another safety related referral by ISWAN.

What ISWAN told us:

We have been contacted by a seafarer having safety related issues on board. Oil from the vessel is being directly discharged into the sea without going through the ODME. The ODME equipment has not been working for over a year. The seafarer has raised this with the captain, but he threatened to fire the reporter.

Further details were included in the email sent by the reporter to ISWAN.

On board I am working with no MLC rules being complied with – this generally applies 24 hours a day. I complained to the master regarding this, and now he is going to terminate my contract for that reason.

In addition, a magic pipe is being used for sewage disposal. Not all crew have proper certificates (and some do not even have basic tanker course certificates).

Further dialogue:

CHIRP Maritime contacted the reporter directly and over a series of e-mails more details emerged of the alleged contraventions and non-compliances.

  • STCW and MLC regulations regarding hours of rest are not being complied with and records are being falsified.
    • On three consecutive days the reporter was required to work throughout without rest breaks and on the fourth day he was again called by the master for duties outside the scheduled shift pattern.
    • At the end of the month the master presented the reporter with a completed hours of rest form that did not reflect a true record. When the reporter refused to sign the document, the master signed in his stead and filed the document.
  • MARPOL contraventions.
    • Waste oil is illegally disposed of by filling empty drums and dumping same into the sea and falsifying vessels positions in the Oil Record Book.
    • There is a ‘magic pipe’ within the engine room allowing discharge of sewage without passing through the waste treatment plant. The vessel is allegedly discharging sewage within port limits and inside special areas contrary to Annex 4 of MARPOL.
  • SOLAS contraventions.
    • The port lifeboat engine has an issue with starting and has been like this for more than a year (according to notes on board).
    • The GMDSS HF/MF transceiver is not working properly.
    • The ECDIS, ENC’s and paper charts on board are not being corrected up to date because there is no internet at sea to allow the corrections to be downloaded.
  • Crew Certification.
    • Not all crew have the basic tanker safety course certificate as required.
    • A crew member joined without a yellow fever vaccination certificate and one was falsified onboard to avoid problems and prevent an inspection.

According to the reporter there are also issues regarding withheld wages and a payment of $4000 to an agent to secure placement on board the ship. The reporter accepted that this was illegal but where he lives it is the only way to gain employment.

CHIRP Maritime contacted the flag state administration for the vessel who responded and requested details of the report, which were duly forwarded. In a subsequent email the flag state acknowledged receipt and expressed appreciation for CHIRP’s direct communication and advised that they had also been made aware of the complaint raised by the crew member through other channels.

CHIRP comment:

The prompt and positive engagement by the flag state is acknowledged and commended by CHIRP and is one of the few positive highlights in this report.

The question is, how has this situation been allowed to arise? Audits, inspections, and vetting programmes should prevent this type of situation from existing but there are too many ships and too few inspectors. Surveyors and inspectors tend to be concentrated in major shipping hubs for obvious reasons but there are many smaller and more remote ports and terminals around the world where there is less likelihood of an inspection taking place. Is it any wonder that these are the very ports and terminals that the older vessels tend to operate in?

As new shipping tonnage is built by the leading companies in each branch of shipping, the older ships that are being replaced are often not scrapped for recycling but sold on to other companies for a further working life. So, the process continues with many ships being sold numerous times during their working life. Each time they are sold the ships are older and require more maintenance to keep them operational and in a safe condition. The irony is that companies that buy ships that are 20 or 25 years old tend not to have the money or the inclination to spend it on the ship and crew so the gradual decline with age becomes a race to the bottom of the barrel, to make as much money as possible from their asset before the ship fails surveys and is sold to the breakers or slips beneath the waves.

As reported to CHIRP, this case is a damning indictment of the shipping industry in the 21st century. Companies, and their employees have both a legal and moral duty to not just comply with the various legislation but to adopt a safety culture whereby incidents of this nature cannot happen. Whilst many companies do indeed have an effective safety culture in place, it is clear that many others do not. This report highlights the fact that CHIRP will follow up reports of this nature with flag states and that the flag states will take up the concerns. Any further reports of this nature would be welcomed.

 

Report Ends…………

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