PROTECTION OF SEAFARERS’ RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES

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 by F R Chowdhury

 

The world has witnessed a major transformation in trade, commerce and industry ever since the end of the World War II. Outsourcing of labour is now a prime consideration. Labour incentive industries are set-up in third world countries to exploit cheap labour resources. In the similar manner cheap labour is hired where possible.

The shipping industry has become more international in nature. Gone are the days when ships used to be owned and manned by the nationals of the flag state. The ship-owners prefer to register their ships in a third country where there is lower taxation and lesser controls and restrictions. Liberia, Marshall Islands and the Bahamas are now identified as “open registers”. There is no restriction on the nationality of seafarers and as such owners can hire seafarers from a country where wages are low. Since the vessel hardly calls at home port and because seafarers will have to be flown in to join the ship, the owners prefer to take bulk of them from a single country. That is why they need the services of crewing agents in the country of residence of the seafarers to select the required crew and arrange for their travel to join the ship. Such representative/ agent are also required to complete any local formality.

However, we must not forget the fact that neither STCW nor SOLAS-ISM recognises any such entity. The term “company” is used to define the entity responsible for safe operation of the ship with security and protection of the marine environment. Resources including manning remain the responsibility of the (ISM) company. The crewing agent works under the umbrella of the company.

ILO that protects the rights and privileges of the seafarers felt the need for some degree of control by administration of the country of the seafarers’ origin. That is why they introduced the entity “Recruitment and Placement Services” – commonly known as RPS. They are to be licensed by the Administration and remain responsible to the Administration for the seafarers sent through them.

It is now expected that ISM companies will only use the services of licensed RPS. The company shall still remain responsible to the flag state whereas the RPS will remain answerable to the Administration of the country of seafarers’ nationality.

In cases where seafarers are not paid regular wages the crew should complain to the flag state that can pressurise the ISM Company because the DOC (document of compliance) of the company is issued by the flag state. The seafarers can also complain to their own national administration that can exercise leverage over RPS licensed by them. The ultimate option will still remain with the seafarers to arrest the ship for the lien they have to recover wages and repatriation expenses.

London, 21-March-20016                                                                    <fazlu.chowdhury@btinternet.com>

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