Hay Point Coal Terminal.
Hay Point Coal Terminal. Tony Martin

Bulk carrier crew 'starving' off Mackay coast

CLAIMING they're starved and underpaid, sailors on board a coal ship off Hay Point have appealed for help but a transport union says BHP is blocking their attempts to act.

Since the Villa Deste berthed off Hay Point on January 24, the International Transport Workers' Federation has attempted to board the 80,000-tonne bulk carrier multiple times to follow up on claims the crew has no food and no onboard wages, and is being fed on a $4 a day food budget.

According to the IFT, BHP has blocked their requests to inspect the vessel.

"Seafarers are starving at BHP's terminal in Queensland, and if BHP continues to deny the ITF access, ignoring these seafarers' most basic rights to be fed and paid, then it is no better than the worst Flag of Convenience operators," ITF national co-ordinator Dean Summers said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

"BHP told media .... that the vessel was not chartered by the company, but it's BHP coal being sold and loaded onto the Villa Deste, Mr Summers said.

"To now claim that they have no responsibility for the conditions onboard these vessel when they arrive at their port, to load their coal, demonstrates an extraordinary failure to uphold basic ethical standards in their global supply chain.

"ITF inspectors along with faith-based welfare providers have rights to access ships clearly defined in the international maritime security code and Australia's national security legislation.

"BHP claim to have a process for access, but continue to refuse our requests and question our legitimate right of entry," he said.

The Liberian-flagged Villa Deste is owned by a Greek company, Evalend Shipping Company SA.

The ITF also inspected another vessel owned by the company, the Penelope L, on July 3, 2018 at the Port of Fremantle, the statement said, and found the same issues "employing seafarers on the lowest conditions possible and supplying decaying food to the crew".

The ITF has previously contacted the Department of Home Affairs about BHP's denial of access for ITF inspectors to inspect ships at Hay Point.

It said the department had responded bysaying "approval to access a port facility is the responsibility of the port facility operator", dismissing the ITF's concerns.

"By dismissing the ITF's concerns the Department of Home Affairs either unknowingly, or by design, has sided with BHP to even further isolate and abuse seafarers' rights," Mr Summers said.

BHP has been contacted for comment.

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