Full response from the International Transport Workers’ Federation and Maritime Union of Australia

In relation to this FactCheck on seafarer’s wages, a spokeswoman from the Maritime Union of Australia sent the following information from an inspector from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), Dean Summers.

Summers said the ITF was aware of a foreign-flagged vessel working in Australian waters that paid close to $US2 an hour for foreign seafarers working on the vessel.

The already paltry wage is not a requirement and there are many ships trading on our coast that are not paying the US$2.10 figure as it is not regulated.

The industry uses the AB (Able Seaman) wages as a benchmark so all comments refer to the AB Able Bodied Seafarer. There are many on lower wages as you can see.

One AB Able Bodied Seafarer we are aware of (we will call him AB number 11) works 10 hours every day and receives US$590 Basic pay. Therefore 590 divided by (4 times 70 hrs) 280 = US$2.10 per hour.

Every seafarer can be made to – and most usually do – work extra 104 hours overime per month and there is a provision for this called Guaranteed Over Time (GOT) or Fixed Overtime (FOT).

The seafarer, AB number 11, gets an additional $398 which equates to US$3.80 overtime rate but only when he has done a 96 hour week.

Then there is leave pay. For this entire months’ work he gets US$118 to splash around when and if he gets leave. Which is almost US$4 per day.

Finally, there is extra overtime for AB number 11. He has been required to work 280 basic hours plus his full 104 fixed overtime and they needed more from him so they made him work another 10 -15 hours. This is very normal and so I calculate AB number 11 worked just on 400 hours for this month and received US$1136 minus US$118 for holiday pay. He therefore gets paid ($1018 divided by 400 hrs) US$2.50 per hour when he works 100 hour week.

The reality is that there are zero minimum wages for international seafarers. The international shipping lobbyists quote an International Labor Organisation minimum rate of US$1000 per month but that is a voluntary figure and completely unenforceable in any jurisdiction.