Over the last two and half years of the pandemic cases of companies abandoning their seafarers on ships around the world have increased sharply with a record 95 cases reported last year to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Labour Organization (ILO) joint database on abandonment of seafarers.
Speaking at the International Safety@Sea Conference in Singapore Dr Heike Deggim, Director, Maritime Safety Division, IMO, said that so far this year 74 cases of seafarer abandonment had been reported to the IMO/ILO database.
“This was only during the first half of 2022, so, we can assume that this year we are heading towards surpassing 2021’s record of 95 cases,” she said.
Clearly this not a trend anyone wants to see continuing and it was something Dr Degim said needed to be worked on.
“The joint IMO/ILO tripartite working group has been re-established by ILO and IMO to identify and address seafarer issues, and the human element. It will meet over the next two years in several sessions, and they will address in particular guidelines on how to deal with seafarer abandonment cases,” she said.
The working group will also address other issues related to seafarer welfare including the treatment of those suspected of maritime crimes, and bullying and harassment, including sexual assault.
The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) recently highlighted the growing number of cases seafarers reporting the non-payment of wages for two months or longer, which meets the ILO’s definition of abandonment. It said that seafarers did not always realise that not being paid for a couple of months could be a precursor to abandonment.
In 2021 the ITF clawed back some $37m in wages that had been withheld from crew by shipowners.