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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 February 2007, 16:47 GMT
Crew's mutiny over unpaid wages
Merchant Brilliant
The Merchant Brilliant is anchored three miles off Heysham
Negotiations are under way to end a dispute after a ship's crew barricaded themselves in their cabins in a row over wages.

The sailors on the Merchant Brilliant, which is anchored three miles off Heysham, Lancashire, claim they are owed $167,000 (86,516).

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) has two inspectors on board to help broker a deal.

They are holding talks with the ship's Latvian owners, ADG Shipping.

ITF inspector, Ken Fleming, said: "The crew members are complaining about excessive hours, bad relationships with management and a failure to pay their wages."

We would not have let her go out if there was any fear that there would have been a threat to anyone on board
Graham McLean,
port manager at Heysham

Mr Fleming said that after a heated debate with the ship's owners on Monday night, the crew and the inspectors barricaded themselves inside the cabin overnight by putting furniture against the doors as the ship sailed from Belfast.

However, when it docked at Heysham in the morning, they came out.

They then anchored off the coast where they are currently trying to reach a deal with the owners.

Graham McLean, port manager at Heysham, said: "We would not have let her go out if there was any fear that there would have been a threat to anyone on board."

However, the maritime union RMT is calling for the ship to be arrested.

If the crew call for the arrest, the vessel will be impounded pending a court settlement.

The ITF said it is difficult to impound a vessel when it is not in port.

'Suspend hire'

"This shameful situation underlines the need to ensure that ships plying in UK waters are subject to properly policed and enforced minimum employment standards, whatever flag they fly," said RMT general secretary Bob Crow.

A spokesman for Norfolkline, which chartered the Merchant Brilliant, said the firm had temporarily ended its hire of the vessel.

"The charter agreement between Norfolkline and the owner of the Merchant Brilliant, ADG, clearly stipulates that the vessel be operated in accordance with ITF guidelines," he said.

"Talks between the owner of the Merchant Brilliant and the ITF are ongoing, and we are hopeful that a fair and satisfactory conclusion to this matter can be reached in as short a time as possible.

"However until such a time, Norfolkline has decided to suspend the hire of the vessel."

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