ICS Finds Drop-Off in Flag States' Labor Standards Reporting

File image courtesy Clear Seas

Published Feb 3, 2022 11:39 PM by The Maritime Executive

The International Chamber of Shipping has issued its annual report card on flag state performance, and while the signs are positive in general, there is one category where some states are underperforming: their labor standards reporting. ICS' analysis of flag states’ reporting on ILO labor standards, including the Maritime Labor Convention, showed a six percentage point drop in flag states meeting their obligations. 

“The pandemic has been a challenge for us all and one that Flag States have also had to weather. However, the drop off in reporting against ILO Labour Standards, including the MLC, is further evidence that seafarer wellbeing has been an unintended casualty of the pandemic," said ICS Secretary General Guy Platten. “Hundreds of thousands of seafarers have been trapped on ships for many months beyond their scheduled tours of duty throughout the last two years. This report is a reminder that flag states must keep seafarer wellbeing as a top priority.”

The dropoff reflects a trend of reporting challenges for governments generally, not just flag state administrations. Out of the 2,004 reports on labor standards requested by the International Labor Organization from governments in 2021, only 43 percent of these requests were granted. This is a sharp drop compared with the 71 percent reporting rate in 2020, during the height of the pandemic. "This has been a challenging year for many governments resulting in a limited capacity to report," the ILO noted. 

According to ICS, this shows both the unusual administrative pressures of the pandemic and the impact of the crew change crisis on seafarers, governments and the industry. 

However, according to ICS, this one shortcoming was an outlier, and most flags showed a generally strong performance on port state control inspections and ratification of international conventions. This includes positive developments at the biggest flags. 

"Amongst the 10 largest ships registers (by dead weight tonnage), covering more than 75 percent of the world fleet, none have more than two indicators of potentially negative performance, and five have no negative indicators at all," ICS reported. "The findings also suggest that distinctions between ‘traditional’ flags and open registers are no longer meaningful, with many open registers amongst the very top performers."