The ITF is campaigning against the poor conditions for seafarers on board ships owned by the German company Johann MK Blumenthal.
Concerns were raised in March when the Australian authorities detained the Blumenthal-owned, Liberia-flagged Anna-Elisabeth at Port Kembla for a range of serious deficiencies, after the ITF and Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) alerted it to complaints from the crew of insufficient food, bullying and the denial of shore leave.
Since this case came to light, the ITF has been collecting detailed evidence from current and former Blumenthal crew members about exploitative working conditions on board the company’s global fleet. Whistle-blowers have reported cases of forced unpaid overtime, withholding of wages, discrimination based on nationality and a lack of essentials, such as food and water. There are also reports that some seafarers have been forced to sign an agreement that they will not join a union.
In a further case that has emerged, seafarers on board the company’s Liberia-flagged Lita bulk carrier are reported to have been forced to collect rain water to drink after the ship ran out of potable water.
ITF inspector Sven Hemme, who is leading the campaign to expose conditions on board the Blumenthal fleet, said that the conditions on the Lita: “must be the final straw. The Liberian flag must intervene, and Blumenthal's president Dr Matthias Reith must engage with the ITF and German maritime unions to set a responsible and dignified standard for workers on board all of their ships.”