No food, no wages: Crew stranded off Queensland coast
A CREW of 20 sailors aboard a coal ship have been stranded off the Queensland coast, unpaid and without food.
Charities and sailor advocates are now rushing to dispatch an emergency delivery of supplies to the ship.
The Chinese nationals aboard the 93,000-tonne Five Stars Fujian have been off the Port of Gladstone since July 19.
The Fujian was arrested by order of the Federal Court in July but freed on Wednesday.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority then detained the ship after inspectors found there was not enough food for its next journey, and that wages remained unpaid. AMSA also supplied the crew with a small amount of rations.
Although the shipping firm has received the AMSA order, it says it is yet to solve the issue.
The ship remains unable to unload an estimated $40 million of coal it collected at the Port of Hay Point, 40km south of Mackay.
The last of the crew's rations will be exhausted between now and Tuesday, but advocates fear the food supplies could run out as soon as Sunday.
The International Transport Workers' Federation - which represents foreign sailors - is now working with the Mission to Seafarers charity to deliver urgent aid to the Fujian on Saturday afternoon.
But this may not be the end of the heartache for the ship's crew.
ITF assistant coordinator Matt Purcell warns the ship may be abandoned by its Hong Kong owners which would again leave the workers in limbo.
"The ship is just sitting there in the bay because the owners can't pay the crew and can't feed the crew," Mr Purcell said.
"It's just sitting there detained by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
"This is the type of thing ruining our Australian industry."
An AMSA spokesman said there was no reason for the Fujian not to continue on its journey once workers are paid and food supplied.
He said there was no suggestion the ship would be abandoned.
If indeed the ship was discarded by its owners, the company would be expected to pay the cost of returning the Chinese crew to their home country.
Gladstone Mission to Seafarers chaplain Russell Cunningham said his only concern was for those on board.
"We're trying to assist in a humanitarian way," he said.
"Our main concern is that the seafarers appear to be running low on food and we're trying to assist while people work out what's going on."
The plight of foreign seafarers has come under increased scrutiny after a Senate Inquiry was launched following two unsolved deaths aboard the Sage Sagittarius "death ship".