Service provider declared bankrupt after being accused of stealing wages from Ukrainian refugees

Editorial Staff

Crew faced a dire shortage of proper equipment and provisions onboard, raising serious safety concerns.

Norwegian shipping company Aas Kystservice has been accused of wage theft, affecting four Ukrainian refugees and a Lithuanian sailor.

The total sum involved amounts to NOK 830,000 ($80,000).

The story came to light after the affected seamen filed a complaint against the company through the Norwegian Seafarers’ Union. “We had problems with salary payments right from the beginning. I got some pay, but not as much as I should have,” machinist Jevgenijus Lopatcenkovas, told Norwegian magazine Fri Fagbevegelse.

“The shipowner seemed both friendly and trustworthy, so there was no reason why we shouldn’t trust him,” said Kyrylo Bich, another victim of the company.

Bich came to Norway as a refugee on 6 January last year. Lopatcenkovas arrived a few months earlier.

“The contract I got looked decent. But when I reported the lack of salary in accordance with the contract, I was told that it would come later, so I just worked on,” Bich told Fri Fagbevegelse.

Food shortages

The crisis deepened in August of last year when the seafarers, despite being under contract with wages due, found themselves without any money. Compounding the issue, the crew faced a dire shortage of proper equipment and provisions onboard, raising serious safety concerns.

Aas Kystservice, the company in question, neglected to declare the full wages to the tax authorities and failed to contribute to the seafarers’ pension funds. To make matters worse, although deductions were made from the crew’s wages for union dues, these funds never made their way to the Norwegian Seafarers’ Union, a detail now included in the police investigation.

Bich highlighted that the ship, originally designed for delousing, was repurposed for offshore guarding of seismic vessels, a role it was never meant to play. The crew also grappled with a lack of vital resources such as internet access, satellite phones, and other necessary equipment.

The situation deteriorated further due to insufficient food supplies onboard, leading to a scarcity of essential items like vegetables, oil, and potatoes.  The captain was forced to personally secure provisions with his own credit card.

Worst case of wage theft recorded

Terje Hernes Pettersen, representing the Norwegian Seafarers’ Union, voiced his dismay at the treatment meted out to the crew.

In a court decision made this January, Aas Kystservice was ordered to settle the full claim of NOK 830,000 ($80,000), including legal fees. Additionally, the seafarers succeeded in obtaining an arrest warrant for the ship.

The incident represents the most egregious case of wage theft recorded since it was criminalized in 2022, according to Pettersen. The owner of the shipping company, acknowledging financial struggles that prevented wage payments, has contested the claims of wage theft, arguing the lack of available funds negated this accusation. He also disputed the complaints regarding the ship’s provisions and equipment.


Related Articles