Inside the Issues

Abandoned Seafarers


*Abandoned Seafarers (photo Steven Bruijneel,
*Photo: Steven Bruijneel,

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?

Contact an ITF inspector in the nearest port to you for advice. Sometimes they can help you to arrest the ship,claim back money that is owed to you and assist with repatriation. If there is no ITF inspector nearby, contact the ITF London office. Use the links on the rights hand side of this page for contact details.

If your country has an embassy in the area where you are stranded, see if they can help.

Local unions, welfare organisations and the local community are all possible sources of help and support.