MV Liberty Prrudencia: A Gross Failure in Protecting Seafarers' Rights

David Hammond
David Hammond

By David Hammond 2017-04-19 00:05:11

I have great respect for the mental and physical tenacity of the remaining 13 Indian crew of the MV Liberty Prrudencia. At the time of writing, they remain effectively abandoned by the owners in Zhoushan, China, having been paid just one month’s wages in six months, but to date have steadfastly refused to bow down to pressure exerted to get them to leave their vessel. 

In March, the outstanding wage bill was in excess of $148,000 from the papers supplied.

The list of those whom the crew have reached out to for support is significant: the Hong Kong flag, DG Shipping India, Indian Consulate, Lloyd’s Register, ITF, ISWAN, Seafarers Rights International, ILO, IMO, and many others. To be precise, 33 emailed recipients including Human Rights at Sea at the last count, yet there remains a deafening silence from some quarters and certainly, there has been little public outcry or overt public support for these seafarers. 

Why?

Fact. Had it not been for our charity’s exposure of the issue with express permission and disclosure from the crew, the wider industry and public would most probably have been none the wiser to their plight. At least in the background we reassuringly know that ITF is working with the crew.

With such public knowledge there should be strong condemnation from the international seafaring community, not an embarrassing silence reinforcing the confidence of those who avoid payments due.

“Another shipowner in financial distress. Another continent. More seafarers in trouble. It is not our problem.” These are the unspoken words and thoughts that silently echo; let us not pretend otherwise.

Let us also not forget the actual victims here. 

The personal and financial cost to the crew makes for sobering reading as articulated in our charity’s profiling case study and disclosed signed crew letters openly begging for support to be released from what they refer to as their “slavery.” 

More importantly, this case should act as a stark example to those in the maritime industry, the IMO, the ILO and the unions that point out that seafarers have enforceable legal protections.

Not for this crew. Not since November 2016.

With families in dire financial situations, medical bills mounting and some of the crew being repatriated to look after their family members without being paid what is owed to them, it is the seafarers and those who they went to sea to provide for who are suffering. 

The vessel has not been arrested, and yet significant labor violations within a port state jurisdiction are obvious on the evidence presented. 

The crew should have an enforceable maritime lien for unpaid wages under a contract of employment, but what appears worse is that the Maritime Labor Convention is seemingly failing them under the very circumstances and at the very time when it was designed to do precisely the opposite and it is needed the most by these seafarers.

Even more startling, is the lack of apparent urgency by those in a position to take robust action to legally enforce the crew’s human rights to be paid a fair wage and support their family life in India. 

Where are the international protections and effective remedies, and where is the legal support for these seafarers for their maritime lien attaching to the ship and providing prejudgment security for their claim? 

Bad things happen when good people turn a blind eye and fail to shoulder responsibility.

Another shipowner in financial distress. Another continent. More seafarers in trouble. It is not our problem. 

IMO #Dayoftheseafarer2017 #SeafarersMatter

David Hammond, CEO, Human Rights at Sea

Note to readers 

Are you affected by this OP-ED? Do you want to share your objective thoughts on this matter? Email: enquiries@humanrightsatsea.org

Human Rights at Sea has express permission from the remaining crew to publish disclosed material at the charity’s discretion. 

Read the MV Liberty Prrudencia Case Study here.
Read the Crew letter here.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.

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