Better Protection for Seafarers

The International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva has today agreed in principle two key proposals for amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention (2006) (MLC) which will give seafarers better protection under the Code for repatriation and ship-owners’ liability.

Global maritime welfare charity The Mission to Seafarers attended the Special Tripartite Committee meeting and week-long sessions to debate the proposed amendments. Apart from one Government that abstained, all others voted in favour, with ship-owners and seafarers being united in their desire to reach sensible and practical resolutions to both issues.

The Mission to Seafarers (MtS) said that it is very satisfied with the outcome as seafarers will be more protected than before.

The Revd Canon Ken Peters, Director of Justice and Public Affairs who attended throughout the session at Geneva said, “The consensus that has formed around the protection of seafarers is significant and pleasing. It shows that Governments, shipowners and seafarers representatives realise that seafarers must not be left without repatriation. The Mission to Seafarers will continue to organise the provision of the basic necessities of life, such as food and drinking water, to those that are relying on us, knowing that repatriation is in sight and seafarers will not be left abandoned indefinitely with only our help to survive.”

The adopted amendments must now be presented to the ILO Conference for acceptance before they can be implemented. The Mission to Seafarers fully expects the Conference to recognise the essential importance of this strengthening of the MLC.

Canon Peters paid tribute to the desire of the social partners, shipowners and seafarers to work together to find practical solutions. He added: “Almost all governments clearly showed their intent to ensure the rights of seafarers when confronted by unacceptable conditions.”

Ken added: “I would also like to pay tribute to my colleagues on the delegation of the International Christian Maritime Organisation. There is clear co-operation between the various maritime charities, who together continue to make a significant contribution to the welfare of seafarers.”

As of March 2014, the ILO’s Abandonment of Seafarers Database listed 159 abandoned merchant ships, some dating back to 2006 with abandonment cases still unresolved. A figure which, The Mission maintains, reflects the significant under- reporting of the problem.

In practice when ships are abandoned, seafarers suffer from inhuman conditions as they are aboard what are termed ‘dead ships’. For two and a half months from November 2013, The Mission to Seafarers on the Port of Tyne looked after the crew abandoned on board the MV Donald Duckling. The crew had not been paid and there was a lack of food. There were serious problems on the ship, with no fuel, no light and no heat.

This is just one example. Often there is a considerable delay before seafarers are repatriated and this adds to the stress and discomfort of the ordeal. The new provisions will enable quicker repatriation and indeed may reduce the number of abandonments because of the financial security that must now be put in place to address such situations.

The Mission to Seafarers, April 11, 2014

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