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Crew wages - check local requirements for coastal trade in Aus as MLC compliance may not be enough

Engaging in coastal trading could expose a foreign flagged vessel to a variety of local laws and it is upto the owners to appraise themselves and avoid non-compliance. A good example is The Turmoil [2019] where the vessel was on and off engaged in Australian coastal trade and under prepared owners were caught by the Fair Work Act, which obliged them to to pay higher crew wages as per Australian rates.

Once made aware of such by Fair Work Ombudsman, owners complied. Ombudsman was however now looking to impose civil penalties to deter repetition.


Owners argued that they had done everything a responsible employer of maritime labour would do (for instance MLC compliance, ITF agreements in place etc.) and they were just not aware of the act.


Federal court of Aus. acknowledged that such a law creates an unusual situation which was not contemplated by MLC. It noted that owners of a vsl on time charter would normally not know of vsl's trading pattern in advance and it may be difficult for them to know of local laws. It then looked at whether MLC requirements were satisfied and found owners to have exceeded their obligations as an employer. Court found that they had not acted deliberately or with intent to make profits from contravention of rules. No penalty was imposed.



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