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Edition 2, 2012

Justice for Seafarers?

Image of Seafarer

Initial results of the first major survey undertaken by Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI) into the experiences of seafarers facing criminal charges have thrown up worrying claims that seafarers are subjected to unfair treatment and feel intimidated by policing authorities around the world, and that they are not provided legal representation and interpretation services when needed.

The survey of 3,480 seafarers was undertaken in the 12 months to the end of February 2012.  It was conducted in eight languages – Chinese, English, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Turkish and Tagalog.  Responses were received from 18 countries and 68 different nationalities of seafarers. […]


Stranded, Lost and Bereft at Sea

Abandoned Seafarers

“We didn’t get any wages.  The electricity generator was broken and we had only rainwater for washing.  We couldn’t refrigerate food to keep it fresh and food deliveries stopped when the chandler’s bills weren’t paid.  Luckily, we found a rod on board, and began catching fish from the river to eat,” said Romanian seafarer George Cristof, watchkeeper on the Bahamas-flagged vessel Dona Liberta, which had been laid up since June last year in the River Fal, south-west England.

Sadly, and disturbingly, this story is not unique.  Between 2001 and 2010 alone, some 152 cases of ships were reported abandoned in foreign ports – and these are just the ones that have come to light.  The full extent of seafarers being left high and dry to their own hapless devices is widely believed to be under-reported, poorly documented and has never been accurately measured – a situation that reflects very poorly on the global shipping industry and its regulators.  But behind every statistic and case of abandonment are real people, with families and loved ones, enduring real hardship. [……..]

Obo Basak | Delta Pride | Comanav Ferry/Comarit SA



Spotlight on the Maritime Labour Convention 2006

Seafarers’ Trust 30th Anniversary

The Seafarers’ Trust celebrated its 30th anniversary on 22 March 2012 with a topical seminar on the Maritime Labour Convention: Welfare Matters. [….]

Togo Ratifies the MLC

Cleo Doumbia-Henry, SRI Advisory Board member and Director of the International Standards Department at the International Labour Organization (ILO), continues her relentless efforts with her team to achieve the necessary ratifications to bring the MLC into force. At the end of March 2012, Togo registered its ratification, bringing the number of ratifications to 25.  The full list of country ratifications may be accessed at ILO’s new NORMLEX database.  It is expected that the remaining five necessary ratifications will be received in the course of 2012, which will permit the MLC to enter into force in 2013.


Spotlight on fair treatment

99th Session of IMO Legal Committee

In the 99th session of the IMO Legal Committee on 16-20 April 2012, as part of a packed agenda for the Committee, SRI informed the Committee about a survey it had conducted concerning the experiences of seafarers facing criminal charges. [….]

European Manning and Training Conference

One of the highlights of this year’s European Manning and Training Conference held in Poland on 10-11 May 2012 was the session entitled ‘Countering the Criminalisation of Seafarers.’   The speaker was SRI Advisory Board member and Secretary-General of Intermanager, Captain Kuba Szymanski. [….]

Fitzpatrick is Guest of Shipmasters

Deirdre Fitzpatrick, SRI’s Executive Director, has been invited to speak at the 38th Annual General Assembly of IFSMA to be held in Copenhagen on 14-15 June. The International Federation of Shipmasters’ Associations (IFSMA) serves the interests of 11,000 shipmasters from 60 countries. […]

Profile: David Cockroft, ITF General Secretary & SRI Advisory Board Member

David Cockroft

“No training, no skills required.  Price: $4,500” said the advertisement for a First Officer’s Panamanian certificate to navigate a ship and deputise for Captain.  David Cockroft bought it, in 2000, and years later showed his seaman’s book to Ruben Arosemena, the then-Vice President of Panama, to illustrate corrupt practices in shipping registers.

“The idea that ship registers are a business rather than a public responsibility, and that ship owners can abandon the flag of their own country to search the world for the cheapest crews with the least training and the lowest safety standards for their ships is a really bad one,” said David.

“Seafarers’ contribution to the wellbeing of the general public is all too often, sadly, overlooked. They are out of sight of regulators, an invisible labour force enduring life-threatening conditions on substandard vessels; their rights are so easily eroded and forgotten.” 

David was elected the 13th General Secretary of the ITF at its 37th Congress in Geneva in 1994, and he has been re-elected to the same post at subsequent congresses. [….]



Profile: Brian Orrell, OBE LLB (Hons), FNI; Chair SRI Advisory Board

“This is a big award for one of the biggest men in shipping,” said former MP Gyles Brandreth, compering an industry awards ceremony in 2008 when he introduced the recipient of the prestigious and covetable Lloyd’s List Lifetime Achievement Award – Brian Orrell. The year before, Brian was awarded Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the New Year’s Honours List for services to seafarers over three decades.

“For many seafarers, their working and living conditions have deteriorated since the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, and the period since has been one of trying to reinstate their rights,” said Brian, Chair of Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI). 

In 1993, Brian became General Secretary of Nautilus, a post he held for 16 years, during which time he led the seafarers’ group in interminable top-level IMO/ILO negotiations that culminated in the adoption of a number of international maritime instruments, notably the Fair Treatment Guidelines for Seafarers, the Seafarers’ Identity Documents Convention 2003 and the Maritime Labour Convention 2006.  He is largely credited with coining the apposite phrase ‘seafarers’ bill of rights’ for the MLC, instead of the working title at the time which was an uninspiring ‘ConMarCon’ (for Consolidated Maritime Convention). [….]



Seafarer depression – alone in a wide, wide sea

Distance from loved ones, long voyages and a lack of access to communications can make seafarers especially vulnerable to mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, stress and depression. They can face loneliness, homesickness and ‘burn- out’, yet with work, rest and play taking place in the same environment it’s not surprising that these feelings are often bottled up, leading to more serious outcomes. […]


Keeping in touch online and onboard – a maritime revolution

As more and more seafarers use their laptops, personal mobile phones and email while at sea and in port while on shore leave, an onboard communications revolution is almost upon the shipping industry as the sea plays ‘catch-up’ with land-based technology, and satellite communications become more accessible and affordable. 

The use of broadband and high-tech communications devices is becoming more widespread among shipping companies, and it’s looking like the maritime sector is now beginning to follow the land-based trends in employee communications that started in  the mid-1990s. […]