A SHIP called the Donald Duckling has been condemned as “a Mickey Mouse operation” after being detained at the Port of Tyne in South Shields.
Crew members on the Panamanian-registered bulk carrier were so poorly fed they were forced to fish from the vessel and burn loose wood on deck to cook their food, because galley equipment didn’t work.
Some crew with family illnesses were refused permission to return home and the Donald Duckling’s former chief engineer was sacked after requesting spare parts to rectify problems previously identified in state control inspections.
The ship was detained by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) this week after an inspection revealed a long list of safety concerns.
An MCA spokesman said the vessel will not be allowed to leave Port of Tyne until the “mechanical and safety issues” are resolved.
Maritime inspectors say standards on board the Donald Duckling were some of the worst they had ever encountered.
Nautilus International Transport Workers’ Federation inspector Tommy Molloy, who has been helping the 16-strong Filipino and Romanian crew, said: “The ship is called the Donald Duckling and it certainly is a shocking example of a Mickey Mouse operation, that undermines operators who run to decent standards.”
Mr Molloy told the Gazette that standards on board the vessel were “some of the worst” he had ever seen.
“The state of the ship is just shocking. Even with the naked eye, it’s obvious the vessel is rust-coloured and that not a penny has been spent on maintenance for many years.”
The Donald Duckling had already been detained for 121 days earlier this year in Gibraltar, after 21 safety deficiencies were discovered by port state control officers.
Meanwhile in September, another inspection in Las Palmas, Spain, uncovered 33 more safety issues.
Crew members have repeatedly not been paid and were reportedly going hungry for lack of cooking facilities.
Mr Molloy added: “The fact that the vessel has been detained for such periods of time and for the nature and scope of the deficiencies provides clear grounds, in line with the contracts of employment, for the crew to claim repatriation, due to the breach of contract.
“The vessel is clearly not seaworthy, which ought to be of grave concern to the charterers and cargo receivers.”
Owned by TMT Shipping of Taiwan, the Donald Duckling arrived at Port of Tyne to load a cargo of scrap metal bound for Korea.
“It is clear that the crew would have been placed into potential danger had the ship left port for the voyage.
“We are aware that TMT has been having problems, but this does not excuse the outrageous treatment of the crew in this case,” Mr Molloy added.
Mr Molloy has written to the Taiwanese owners, calling for payment of outstanding wages and the repatriation of some crew members due to breach of contract.
A spokesman for the MCA said: “Following an inspection earlier this week, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) issued a detention notice on the vessel Donald Duckling.
“The detention was served for a number of reasons, including mechanical and safety issues.
“This notice, which prevents the vessel from sailing, will remain in place until the necessary improvements are carried out.”
A Port of Tyne spokesman said: “Following a routine inspection, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency requested the owner of the bulk carrier “Donald Duckling” to undertake repair and maintenance.
“To prevent any impact on Port of Tyne operations the ship has been moved to a layby berth.”