Namely, the crews of two further ships in Western Australia and Victoria refused to keep sailing today in bids for repatriation.

The ‘Conti Stockholm’ and ‘Ben Rinnes’ are the latest ships to become idle and block berths because of over-contract crew enforcing their right to refuse to sail indefinitely, joining the alumina-carting Unison Jasper which has been held up in Newcastle, NSW since last week.

In the Port of Fremantle, Perth, the container vessel Conti Stockholm was stopped. The Liberian-flagged ship is owned by German company NSB Group. The ship is now stranded, going nowhere, as the company waits a relief crew. The current crew members refused to sail the ship and demanded repatriation after many months at sea. These seafarers are over contract, and have a right under the Maritime Labour Convention to stop working at completion of their contracts, and be returned home at the employers’ expense.

The Conti Stockholm was also boarded by a member of the Australian federal Labor opposition, Senator Glen Sterle. The Senator is supporting the ITF’s call for a coordinated response from the Australian Government working with unions and industry to ease the crew change crisis.

The second stopped ship is the Marshall Islands-flagged ‘Ben Rinnes’, which has been chartered to cart soy product for Cargill. The Greek-owned bulk vessel was stopped in the Victorian port of Geelong after initially four, then five, of the crew told the ITF that they wanted to be repatriated after expiry of their contracts.

All of the Ben Rinnes crew who have taken a stand to get off have been on board for longer than the legal maximum, except for just one, who will go beyond the 11 month limit within the next 30 days.

One of the crew has been more than 17 months on board. The crew have told the ITF that they signed five month extensions after their nine month tour, on a promise from the owners to repatriate them. As of yet there are no plans by the company to get them home, ITF says.

These three ships are just the tip of the iceberg. With international crew change all but blocked for the last five months – you can expect to see more and more crews decide to drop anchor and get off in Australia. The consequence for Australia’s mineral and agricultural exports and flow of imports will be significant. This is an economic and humanitarian emergency