Flag of Convenience week commence to promote rights of seafarers

Flag of Convenience Action Week to protect and promote the rights of seafarers commenced at Kochi Port.

FOC Action Week is a global campaign initiated by the International Transport Workers’ Federation, particularly in Indian and Pakistani ports, to control the menace of substandard shipping. The week-long campaign highlights the dangers posed by FOC vessels to seafarers.

An FOC ship is one that flies the flag of a country other than the country of its ownership or control. Ship-owners use FOC registers for many reasons including cheap registration fees and low or no taxes at all. FOC registers also enable ship-owners to employ a non-unionised workforce on poor salary and service conditions.

According to Thomas Sebastian, ITF Inspector at Kochi, FOC vessels also deny the crew their basic human and trade union rights. Seafarers on FOC ships frequently suffer as a result of abandoning of vessels by their owners.

In Kochi, seafarers and dockers’ unions such as the Cochin Port Staff Association, the National Union of Seafarers of India, the Forward Seamen Union of India, and the Seafarers’ Confederation are joining hands to fight against the continued growth of FOC vessels.

A coordinated action of stakeholders, including the Port State Control, crewing agents, port authorities and trade unions can effectively control the menace of substandard shipping and establish minimum labour standards on board vessels, he said.

During the action week, he said participating unions would inspect all FOC vessels berthed at the port, including container ships at ICTT Vallarpadam, and respective companies of these vessels will be asked to sign ITF acceptable agreements.

The ITF believes that there should be a genuine link between the owner of a vessel and the flag the vessel flies as stipulated in the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), he added.

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