Russian, Ukrainian and Filipino crew members of a bulk carrier ship detained in New Zealand have begun receiving several months of back pay from their employers, union officials said Thursday.
The 18-strong crew of the Greek-owned and Panamanian-flagged Lancelot V had also been given temporary visas to allow them to leave their ship in the port of Tauranga, on the east of the North Island.
The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) had been working on behalf of crew, who had their wages stopped about two months ago, ITF New Zealand inspector Grahame McLaren said in a statement.
The government's Maritime New Zealand agency ship inspection in Auckland in May had revealed defects to several cranes and the vessel was detained when it later arrived in Tauranga as its annual classification society certificates had expired.
Crew visas expired during this time, forcing them to remain on board as virtual prisoners until they received temporary visas, said McLaren.
Extensive representation had been made to the embassies of the Russian, Ukrainian and Filipino crew members with little result.
Following a New Zealand court last week, 23,000 U.S. dollars in interim wages was obtained to be distributed amongst the crew for the time being.
The ITF was seeking the prompt repatriation of all crew members to their home countries once the remaining back pay claims, estimated to be over 100,000 U.S. dollars, had been resolved and for the crew to be paid at ITF rates by the charterer in the meantime.
McLaren said the problems with the ship are a result of the deregulated shipping industry where "flag of convenience" shipping had undermined safety and standards.
"These ships of shame are coming into New Zealand ports. They are ripping off their crews and creating a health and safety hazard in ports and on the New Zealand coast," he said.