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ILO Moves to Protect Abducted Seafarers' Wages

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Seafarer kidnappings are a persistent problem in the Gulf of Guinea (File image)

By MarEx 2018-04-30 13:20:00

A working committee of the International Labor Organization has endorsed an amendment to the Maritime Labor Convention that would ensure the payment of seafarers' wages while they are held captive by pirates. 

At present, according to the International Transport Workers' Federation, there is a potential contractual gap for seafarers who are unlucky enough to be kidnapped by pirates. Under the amendment, seafarers and their families would continue to benefit from contractual wages during the period of captivity, "regardless of whether the date fixed for [contract] expiry has passed or either party has given notice to suspend or terminate it." The amendment also ensures that the seafarer's right to repatriation is also protected in the event of prolonged captivity. The text will be submitted to the International Labor Conference's next meeting for formal adoption. 

“This result has been a critical step forward for seafarer protections," said Dave Heindel, chair of the ITF seafarers’ section. “The MLC has entered a new chapter today. We have always known how challenging this would be to propose such an amendment and we are pleased that the seafarers’ position has been recognized by the social partners and governments, as a necessary instrument to provide seafarers with a greater protections.”

In addition, ITF said, representatives for seafarers and shipowners put forward three more amendments calling for government action on seafarer abandonment and the facilitation of shore leave, two perennial problems with challenging jurisdictional issues. The seafarers group also proposed a study on protections required specifically for inland navigation. "This is the acknowledgement that the inland navigation personnel are faced with unique living and working conditions that require special consideration," said IFT president Paddy Crumlin in a statement. 

Three Korean fishermen released

In an illustration of the importance of the latest MLC amendment, three Korean fishermen who were abducted by Nigerian pirates on March 26 have been released after more than a month in captivity. “The three crewmen are in relatively good health and are now in safe custody of the government,” said a Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson on Sunday.

Their vessel, the Marine 711, was boarded and hijacked by pirates off Ghana, then sailed eastward into Togo's territorial seas. The pirates abandoned the vessel, taking five officers with them, including one Ghanain national, one Greek citizen and three Korean nationals. While the Korean citizens have been released, South Korean announcements did not specify the current status of the two other abductees. 

The South Korean destroyer Munmu the Great was dispatched to the Gulf of Guinea to recover the missing seafarers, but negotiations rather than military action secured their release. "You, the members of the Cheonghae Unit, have once again demonstrated the value and reason for the existence of our military to the people," said South Korean president Moon Jae-in, addressing the commander of the Munmu the Great.