Seafarer abandonment cases have risen over the last 18 months and industry organisations are calling on flag and port states to take their responsibilities more seriously.
The growth in seafarer abandonments since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was detailed and discussed in a panel at the CrewConnect Europe Virtual Event on Tuesday.
International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), Director of Employment Affairs, Natalie Shaw, noted that abandonments had increased over the last 18 months, perhaps because more companies had gone into liquidation.
Speaking about the situation in the Middle East and Gulf region, Revd Canon Andy Bowermann, Regional Director Middle East and South Asia for the Mission to Seafarers, said, “Over the past two years or so we have been involved in some way over the repatriation of over 100 seafarers.”
Looking specifically at this year Shaw said that there had been around 50 cases of abandonment of seafarers. The highest number of these cases came from Panama-flagged vessels – some 18 identified by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF). While it was understandable Panama as the largest flag state had the highest number, Shaw noted it was still much higher than other states.
Apart from Panama the next highest number of cases came from Iran, Cameroon and Mongolia, and then Bahrain, Ukraine and Bolivia all had multiple cases. This also highlighted an issue related to states that had not ratified the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) – Ukraine, Cameroon, Bahrain, and Bolivia are not party to the MLC. The MLC provides that shipowners must have mandatory insurance cover for abandonment.