Panama sought IMO’s intervention to help stranded seafarers and shipowners
Some 74 vessels loaded with Australian coal, carrying over 1,500 crew members remain idling in Chinese waters after the republic imposed an unofficial ban on Australian commodities. The last vessel unloaded its 90,000 mt of cargo in early March after a nine-month wait.
Crew change crisis
Panama, owner of the world’s largest ship register called this pressing situation a “crisis” and appealed for IMO’s secretary-general Kitack Lim to mediate and assist both seafarers and shipowners. Advocating the importance of human rights, Panamanian maritime minister Arch. Noriel Araúz, stressed, “Our mission is to find a reasonable and positive solution for the crew onboard these ships to return home. IMO’s diplomatic powers can help us expose before the competent authorities the neglect of human rights and crew wellbeing stemming from a commercial disagreement.”
An International Labour Organization (ILO) committee asserted under the Maritime Labour Convention: a commercial dispute or disagreement should neither involve crew, nor prevent their disembarkation – especially if their employment contract has either expired or are onboard against their will.
Maritime organisations cautioned of deteriorating mental health among the stranded crew – trapped between authorities who disallow cargo unloading and buyers withholding vessel departure. The Sydney Morning Herald reported four seafarers onboard merchant ship Anastasia were placed on suicide watch.