A RESEARCH vessel contracted by Bangor University has been found to have breached immigration and labour laws by illegally employing seafarers at Menai Bridge.

International Transport Workers' Federation (ITWF), which inspected the vessel in October, found a Filipino crewmember was being paid a monthly salary of $1,900 USD for eight hours work per day, seven days a week – which amounted to £5.71, significantly lower than the UK National Minimum Wage for a 53-year-old man.

The Filipino seafarer had no visa or permit to work in the UK, however, documentation seen by Nautilus showed the seafarer's passport had been stamped by UK Border Force allowing him to enter the country - on the condition that the seafarer was entering the UK to join a vessel that was due to leave the country.

Other crewmembers included two Polish crew, who were similar cases; though they had higher wages they were still being employed illegally. The remainder of the crew were predominantly UK nationals, who were said to be unaware of their crewmates' employment status.

The Filipino seafarer was repatriated after only a few days onboard and will now have to wait for a new contract in the Philippines.

A Bangor University spokesperson said there was “a genuine misunderstanding in the hiring process” and denied that crew members had been paid below the minimum wage.

The crew has been banned by UK Border Force from working on the vessel, though it is not clear whether the seafarers had their wages paid or O.S. Energy would be prosecuted.

But Nautilus called for Bangor University to put pressure on the German contractor to repay the crew embers it says were underpaid.

Tommy Molloy, inspector for ITWF, said: he Prince Madog operates almost exclusively, and certainly predominantly, in UK waters," he said. "That means that Bangor University and project funder, the Welsh Government, need to make sure that contractor O.S. Energy is upholding UK minimum wages and maximum work hours according to UK law.

"This is not some far-off vessel with a workforce they can get away with exploiting.

"The poor guy is an innocent victim who did everything he was asked, in accordance with the law as he understood it. It is O.S. Energy which has attempted to circumvent the law of the United Kingdom, and it should be reprimanded fully to serve as a warning to other would-be exploiters attempting to do likewise in our waters."

A Bangor University spokesperson said: “Bangor University and our Joint Venture (JV) partner, O.S. Energy, are aware of an alleged breach of immigration rules involving three crew members who worked on our research vessel, Prince Madog.

“Although the crew were not Bangor University employees - O.S. Energy are responsible for operating the Prince Madog and employing the ship’s crew - we are part of the JV and as a caring organisation and a large employer in North Wales we adhere to employment law and take our responsibilities seriously.

“We believe there was a genuine misunderstanding in the hiring process for the three skilled crew members relating to complex legislation and the frequency of the vessel operating outside British territorial waters.

“Two of the seafarers were repatriated to their home countries at the expense of the JV and salaries paid to the full value of their contracts. A third crew member has been paid two months’ salary of his five months’ contract and O. S Energy is working with the individual to find him other appropriate work. O.S. Energy pay all crew in the U.K. in line with U.K. laws, including their national insurance, pension contribution and taxes.

“We are confident that no crew have been paid below the minimum wage.

“The University has asked the JV to review processes for hiring international staff to ensure they fully comply with U.K. employment law.”