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International Maritime Organisation (IMO) puts pressure on enforcing seafarers’ wellbeing

Another list of guidelines protecting seafarers’ rights due in March 2022

From abandonments to shipowner’s malpractices, and flag states’ inaction, IMO plans to draw up a new list of guidelines in its lobbying efforts for seafarers’ welfare.

Shipowners’ and operators’ obligations

Seafarers’ abandonment took the spotlight at a recent IMO meeting. 53 abandonment cases were clocked to date, and it is anticipated to increase. There were 85 cases in 2020 involving 1,300 seafarers, while 2019 had 40 cases. The root causes of abandonment listed were failure to pay wages for at least two months, cover repatriation costs and withhold maintenance and support. The IMO stressed the significance of this crisis, and urged both port and member states to fulfil their obligations. Additionally, not all shipowners have signed to the 2014 Maritime Labour Convention, which contributes to the cases.

Some delegates felt while guidelines are warranted to address the abandonments, a balance between safe manning levels of both vessels and repatriation needs is needed. Nevertheless, the pandemic appeared to be a convenient excuse behind member states’ failure in fulfilling their obligations.

Flag and member states to step up

Flag states were not unscathed at the meeting for their noticeable inaction. Rafael Cigarruista, Head of the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) said abandonments were “of concern” with all stakeholders needing to be involved. It has recovered $2 million in owed salaries since the start of the pandemic. He added the AMP is working to resolve cases, although sometimes it is not easy; countries’ restrictions on repatriation. The registry is also monitoring and following up with shipowners to make sure they comply with the rules.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates, despite being a member state is one of the most notorious regions for abandonments. It has signed a national law for the protection of seafarer rights, which hopes to address the abandonment issue, according to London-based Human Rights at Sea. China, Indonesia and Philippines proposed to set up a seafarers mutual emergency fund, although details will be only discussed in March 2022. One felt the fund should only cover repatriation and not outstanding wages. It should also not present unfair advantages for those flag states not fulfilling their obligations. Another alerted the fund should be carefully considered as costs could easily mount.


Crewing Online News Team
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