Ship owners operating Emirati and foreign ships in the waters and ports of the UAE will need to get insurance contracts for all sailors onboard, the UAE’s Federal Authority for Land and Maritime Transport (FTA) has announced.
An FTA circular issued in January states that all sailors onboard should be compensated in the event of injuries during work. They must be deported to their home countries in case of abandonment by the ship owner. Ships not complying with these requirements will not be allowed to anchor or call on the UAE ports.
All UAE-flagged ships operating in the world and those operating within the territorial waters of the state – and with a total weight of more than 200 tonnes – are required to obtain insurance contracts to protect seafarers.
The insurance relates to cases of employers abandoning seafarers, in instances of death or injury. It must cover the wages and entitlements of seafarers for up to four months.
International maritime transport authorities and local diplomatic missions have hailed the decision. They said that the mandate is a ‘step forward’ in protecting the rights of sailors stranded in the UAE waters. Every year, several hundred seamen are stranded in the UAE waters without pay, as ship owners abandon them.
David Heindel, head of seafarers’ section, International Transport Workers Federation, said in a statement to the media that the mandate makes it clear that ship owners must provide financial protection against abandonment, death or injury.
Consul-General of India to Dubai, Vipul, explained that 240 Indian sailors have been repatriated from the UAE waters in the last nine months. He said: “It’s a good measure, which will safeguard the interest of the seafarers. We’ve been working closely with the FTA, and they’ve been very cooperative. The major problems are in the case of unpaid salaries and this measure will help sailors.”
In a statement sent to Khaleej Times, the FTA clarified that the new requirements were issued at a time when the UAE is preparing to ratify the Maritime Labour Agreement 2006, which is due to begin on February 20.
“Although the State has not yet acceded to the convention, the UAE has established mandatory insurance for the benefit of maritime labour in the country.” The statement said that there could be an increase in sailor abandonment cases as the result of an economic recession in the maritime sector.
Girish Pant, a Dubai-based social worker, who routinely works towards repatriation of Indian sailors, said: “This is a great and positive step by the FTA.”
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