|Photo: Steven Bruijneel, www.dockwork.be|
Some shipowners don’t take their responsibilities for their crews seriously. This can result in seafarers being abandoned in ports far from home without fuel, food and water and without pay for months on end.
Why are seafarers abandoned?Abandonment happens either because the shipowners have financial difficulties or because they can make more money by not paying the wages and the bills they owe. This may be more frequent on older ships at the end of their sea life. In some cases the ship is worth less than the money owed to crew and other debtors.
At the moment there are not as many cases as there were a few years ago, this is because the industry has been going through a boom period. If this changes and freight rates drop, the number of abandonment cases is likely to rise as some companies will find it difficult to stay in business.
What is the ITF doing for abandoned seafarers?The ITF is working hard to make shipowners and flag states take responsibility for the repatriation, owed wages and costs of living of abandoned seafarers. We are promoting the idea of a compulsory system of insurance that would provide a safety net for seafarers who are unfortunate enough to be abandoned.
When we find out about a case of seafarers being abandoned we send in a report to an online database where information is collected on the problem. You can view this site by using the link on the right of the page. By doing this we try to put pressure on flag states to investigate the problem and help to solve it.
What should you do if you are abandoned?If your country has an embassy in the area where you are stranded, see if they can help. Contact the ITF using the link on the right of the page – if there is an ITF inspector in a port nearby they will come and advise you on what the best course of action might be. Sometimes they can help you to arrest the ship and claim back money that is owed to you. If there is no ITF inspector nearby, the ITF London office can help by trying to make contact with your company and by putting pressure on the owners and flag state.
Local unions, welfare organisations and the local community are all possible sources of help and support.
The ITF advises seafarers to steer clear of taking on work with a company known to be in difficulties or with a bad reputation for paying its crews or sailing sub-standard ships.