|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.
How to minimize the risk of being abandoned
Before accepting a position on board a vessel, find out as much as you can about the company and the ship you will be joining. Look for indications of problems on board. Use the ‘Look-up a ship’ section of this website to check if the vessel is covered by an ITF agreement and the outcomes of any ITF inspections.
If you are recruited through a crewing agency, try to make sure that the agency is properly run and has a system for checking the stability of the companies for which they supply crew. Check maritime social media to see which companies are the subject of frequent complaints by other seafarers.
What should you do if you are abandoned?
Calling all seafarers!
On 18 January important new rules come into force on abandonment.
Here’s what you need to know:
Under the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) shipowners must have insurance to assist the seafarers on board vessels if they are abandoned.
All ships, to which the convention applies, whose flag states have ratified the MLC must have the insurance certificate on board and on show in English. (You can check who has ratified at http://www.ilo.org/global/standards/maritime-labour-convention/database-ratification-implementation/lang--en/index.htm)
Here’s what you need to do:
If you think that you are in danger of abandonment, don’t wait. If your shipowner doesn’t respond, contact the insurance company.
Abandonment occurs when the shipowner:
- fails to cover the cost of the seafarer’s repatriation; or
- has left the seafarer without the necessary maintenance and support; or
- has otherwise unilaterally severed their ties with the seafarer including failure to pay contractual wages for a period of at least two months’
The insurance will cover you for up to four months outstanding wages and entitlements in line with your employment agreement or CBA – So don’t leave it too late! If you wait six months to apply, you’ll only get four months backpay.
The insurance must also cover reasonable expenses such as repatriation, food, clothing where necessary, accommodation, drinking water, essential fuel for survival on board and any necessary medical care. It will apply from the moment of abandonment to the time of arrival back home.
Insurers the International Group of P&I clubs have set up 24 hour emergency helplines. The details will be on that insurance certificate that must be publicly visible. Check it now. If you think it isn’t real or you feel you are in danger of being abandoned use the helpline number now.
IG of P&I Clubs:
- The Swedish Club
- UK P&I Club
- Steamship Mutual
- The London P&I Club
- West of England
- The Standard
- The American Club
- The Japan Ship Owners’ Mutual Protection & Indemnity Association