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A stain on the global maritime industry: seafarers in dire conditions on Middle East Marine vessels

02 May 2024
Press Release

In the worst case of serial seafarer abandonment ever seen, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) condemns Middle East Marine LLC for its systematic abuse and neglect of over 100 seafarers.  

Today, the ITF is calling on the United Arab Emirates Government and the Palau maritime authorities to act to end seafarers’ suffering and uphold international maritime and human rights law. 

Since November 2022, the ITF has reported over 17 abandonments across 18 vessels in Bangladesh, India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. 

Seafarers from India, Indonesia and Myanmar have been left in dire conditions including the provision of dirty drinking water, lack of food, withholding of passports and medication, refusing ill crew hospital visits, and unpaid wages. Acts considered human and labour rights abuses. 

One seafarer, from Indonesia, said: “My salary hasn’t been paid for more than three months – but there are some crew members unpaid for as long as seven months. The company did not supply provisions and fresh water – sometimes we were just fishing for survival. All crew members are getting depressed, and our families are getting in debt to survive.” 

Another seafarer, from India, told the ITF: “My mental state is not good due to the company treating us like this.” 

Under international law – the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, as amended – seafarers should be paid at least once per month. Crews owed two months or more of pay or who are not provided with sufficient food, water and fuel are considered to have been abandoned, which should trigger action by insurers and the ship’s Flag State – the country where the ship is registered – in this case Palau. 

The ITF has not received a single response from the Palau maritime authorities despite the urgency of the situation seafarers and their families are facing. 

“Seafarers’ lives are not collateral for any company,” said Steve Trowsdale, ITF's Inspectorate Coordinator. “We are extremely concerned about the welfare of the crews affected by Middle East Marine’s woeful business and the sheer scale of the abandonments.  

“It’s hard to comprehend how a company registered in the UAE can behave like this with impunity. Middle East Marine is a stain on the global maritime industry.” 

"It's been shocking to see seafarers facing such extreme exploitation, dangerous working conditions and limited rights. No pay, inadequate living conditions, lack of legal protections, and restricted freedom of movement – it's akin to modern-day indentured servitude," said Sandra Bernal, ITF's Network Coordinator Asia Pacific Region.   




  • ITF inspector Paul Farzon and Sandra Bernal, Network Coordinator Asia Pacific Region who are both directly assisting crew face-to-face are available for interview. Please contact Jessica Summers to arrange on +44 7702 259 612 or   


About the ITF: The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is a democratic, affiliate-led federation of transport workers’ unions recognised as the world’s leading transport authority. We fight passionately to improve working lives; connecting trade unions and workers’ networks from 147 countries to secure rights, equality and justice for their members. We are the voice of the almost-20 million women and men who move the world.  


Media contact: Jessica Summers +44 7702 259 612 

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