Seafarers perform difficult, often dangerous work that is essential to the operation of global supply chains, delivering all the merchandise we take for granted in modern life. Yet because of the legal vacuum governing international marine traffic, a lack of resources and attention for enforcement by national regulators, and the corporate strategies of shipping companies and their customers, seafarers are subject to some of the worst exploitation and abuse of any occupation in the world economy.
As a developed, high-income economy that participates heavily in international freight trade, Australia has a special responsibility to protect and lift labour standards in this vital industry. Australia’s current approach is sadly inadequate in that regard. Our laws tolerate the blatant use of legal loopholes to evade the application of domestic standards, and our regulatory agencies have not made adequate commitments to oversee, inspection, enforcement, and remediation.
The policy recommendations made in this report would constitute initial and long overdue steps in addressing both the economic and the moral dimensions of wage theft and other forms of exploitation in freight shipping.