Problems with welfare, payment, and maintenance at ELEEN SOFIA

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) reports that it is currently working with Australian authorities to resolve a case of crew abuse, wage theft and appalling conditions aboard a bulk carrier owned by a Bulgarian company. The vessel is also under the arrest of Australian border guards and is detained in Gladstone.

ELEEN SOFIA (IMO 9407512) is registered in Liberia and controlled by a beneficial owner in Bulgaria. According to the ITF, the Australian inspectorate has been following the vessel and has conducted numerous inspections. They claim that the vessel, built in 2008 and changed ownership in 2023, has a poor reputation for the quality of living conditions on board and a history of non-payment of crew wages. A review of records shows that the most recent arrest was in New Orleans in 2022, when the US Coast Guard held the vessel for 10 days due to security concerns.

“ITF inspectors have visited this vessel in a number of Australian ports to check on the welfare and safety of the crew, examine wage documentation and compliance with Maritime Labour Convention standards on board”, said Australian inspection coordinator Ian Bray.

At the end of April, an ITF inspection found that the supplies on board the vessel were exhausted, and the crew was left without access to food. It is also noted that during its stay in a hangar in Bangladesh, the ship did not have air conditioning in the crew quarters for more than three months.

The ITF also reports that the question of the disappearance and possible death of the ship's cook, who threw himself overboard at an anchorage in South China, remains unanswered.

In February 2024, the ITF noted that it had become aware of overdue or unpaid wages while the ELEEN SOFIA was docked in the port of Adelaide and later in Portland, Victoria. According to the ITF, its inspection was able to rectify the wage and food shortages, but the vessel left Australia and spent time in other ports before returning to Mackay, Australia, where an Australian inspection again found the same issues.

The ITF is working closely with the Australian Border Force and local port authorities in Queensland to ensure that crew members remaining on board the vessel at the time of arrest have access to decent, healthy living conditions, medical care and possibly repatriation while the vessel and the reasons for its arrest are investigated.

Australia is also known for its determination and adamant enforcement of the International Maritime Labour Convention. It is a country that carefully adheres to international standards and often takes steps to ban vessels from entering its ports if they breach these standards.

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