Foreign ship crew visiting Aussie ports paid a pittance
AS FLY-in, fly-out workers in Australia's resources industry earn wages topping $100,000 a year; their maritime counterparts aboard bulk carriers are paid a fraction of that.
Life aboard these giant ships has come into focus as seafarer advocates and experts demand to know why there are no answers after two crewmen were killed at sea in late 2012.
Filipino ship workers Cesar Llanto and Hector Collado were killed while aboard the Sage Sagittarius - dubbed the murder or death ship by an international welfare agency.
Australian Federal Police and New South Wales Police are investigating.
On board bulk carriers, a hierarchy of roles are filled from different nations, ranging from Japanese or Greeks in the highest ranks, followed by subordinates from Eastern Europe or Korea.
Lower ranks are hired from developing countries - the Philippines is a popular destination for agents to secure crewmembers.
Contracted labourers stay aboard for up to nine months at a time.
A low ranking crew member earns about $1500 per month - a high wage compared to the pay in their home country - but little compensation for time spent away from their family in basic living quarters.
Late last year, APN spoke to two crewmen in Mackay while their fuel tanker was moored at the nearby Port of Hay Point.
Ukranian Maksym Vasylchenko and Filipino Jonathan Colin were collected by Mackay's branch of Stella Maris, a not-for-profit which helps crew members contact their families while abroad.Stella Maris also has centres in Bundaberg, Gladstone and Newcastle.
Mr Vasylchenko, 30, was second engineer on the tanker but finished his contract early after requiring an emergency hernia operation.
He received medical treatment in Mackay and was waiting to fly home to Sevastopol in the Ukraine
Mr Vasylchenko joined the current crew five months ago in India, travelling first to Brazil then to Japan before arriving in Central Queensland.
After 12 years as a high-ranking crewman, he earns $1800 a month or AUD$85,000 a year although contracts rarely stretch 12 months.
Mr Colin, 39, has been a ship cook since 2007.
He earns $450 a week - the equivalent of $23,000 for 12 months - which he sends home to his family.
His rate of pay is less than that of his Ukranian colleague but still four times what he would earn doing the same work at home in southern Leyte.
Mr Colin was unable to be there when Typhoon Haiyan tore through the region, destroying his house but leaving the Colin family unhurt.
He said there was sometimes "trouble" among ship farers, but not with his current contract.