New Zealand authorities are investigating the loss of a crewmember over the side of the bulker Berge Rishiri on Saturday. The man is missing and likely deceased, and Maritime Union NZ has called for the national government to look closely at the conditions on board to find any potential factors behind the incident.
The seafarer, a Chinese national, was last seen at 0800 hours at the end of his watch on Saturday morning. He was first noticed missing when he did not show up for duty at 1600 hours later that day. The ship notified Maritime NZ, and a search was launched; however, it was suspended after about one day, given the low likelihood of survival in the cold waters of the Southern Ocean.
Maritime Union NZ National Secretary Craig Harrison called on the government to do more to protect the welfare of international seafarers. He noted that globally, more than 500 seafarers a year go missing and another 500 are killed at sea (as of 2019). In a statement, he said that he would like Maritime New Zealand to investigate whether the crew were having adequate rest breaks, and that they were not required to secure any cargo while underway.
“We would like to know how long the seafarer had been at sea and on duty and have assurances they were not kept on the vessel longer than their contracted period, as we have seen huge mental health issues with seafarers basically kept captive on vessels for months and sometimes years,” Harrison said. “These crew members are in New Zealand waters, their work is essential for New Zealand, and in our view their rights and welfare are often overlooked.”
Berge Rishiri put into port at Napier on Monday, where police planned to board her and interview members of the crew. A spokesman for Maritime NZ told Stuff.co.nz that the incident occurred outside of the nation’s territorial seas, so its jurisdiction is limited.
Berge Rishiri is a 35,000 dwt bulker built in 2017 and flagged in the Isle of Man. She has few recorded PSC deficiencies and none related to hours of rest or crew welfare.