The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has reported three ship abandonment cases in UK waters that allegedly showed a disregard for crew welfare regulations. The cases involved the Reggae, in Port of Leith; the Tahsin, in Sharpness; and the Seccadi, in Ellesmere Port.
“The regulation exists to prevent this abuse from happening but some people seem to think it doesn’t apply to them,” commented ITF seafarers’ section chair Dave Heindel. “Action by the flag state has yet to be seen. It’s also disappointing to see the reluctance of the P&I club to step up and pay out under the requirements that came into force in January this year under the amended Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.”
Heindel says that ITF will be reporting on these provisions to the ILO (International Labour Organization) and IMO. He alleges a “tendency to take the word of the owners at face value and ignore both the evidence onboard and the fact that this insurance was specifically designed to allow direct access to seafarers and their representatives.”
ITF inspector Darren Proctor recounted the case of the Panama-flagged Tahsin. “The vessel entered Sharpness, Gloucestershire on 31 May and was detained by the MCA after a complaint was received regarding outstanding wages and drinking water,” he said. “The crew consisted of five Turkish crew, two Indians and two Georgians. None of them had been paid for three months, but the Indian crew had not been paid since joining in September and October 2016, and had had to pay to even get the jobs. One of the contracts for an AB was for $250 total per month.
Proctor said that after ITF intervention, seven of the nine crew were repatriated and paid in full, including payment at the ILO minimum wage for the one illegally contracted for just 250 dollars a month. Inspectors found poor conditions on board, including out of date food, broken galley equipment and shortages of fresh water.
ITF inspector Liam Wilson said that the crew of the Reggae also had to contend with poor conditions, and that they had been stuck on their vessel for three months. They have all been replaced. “The risk they face is too high for them to simply sail out of port again and for the cycle of abuse and mistreatment to start again – they might not experience the same positive outcome next time,” he said.
ITF inspector Tommy Molloy reported that the crew of the Seccadi had been paid as little as $0.85 per hour. They have since been repatriated. “The ship owner was informed by the Border Force when the ship was detained by the MCA that if all issues were not resolved by the end of the defined period that the vessel was allowed to remain in the UK, the Force would have little option but to deport the crew,” he said.
The owners eventually agreed to repatriate the crew – at least as far as Istanbul. They were required to pay their own way for the remainder of their journey home, a violation of the MLC. Further, “it was also revealed that the Indian crew members had to pay thousands of dollars to the crewing agent the company uses in India for ‘training’ and ‘certificates’. They either have to find this money in advance or are effectively tied to the company until this amount is paid back,” Molloy said.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.