RightShip data on ILO seafarer abandonment cases
Case waiting times
If you can picture in your mind the average seafarer who expects to make a steady income, you may not realise the unacceptable hardship caused by the length of time cases remain open or in dispute. Currently, there are:
- 247 IMO cases — 96 open and 141 in dispute.
- 3,657 seafarers waiting for owed wages.
- 3.8 month average wait times for case resolution.
- Monies owed totaling $11,464 per seafarer for 5.7 months of service.
Case claims do not always result in full payment. Some settle with part-payment or none granted.
For the 2022 cases, 34 are open, 17 are in dispute, and 41 are resolved. A positive development is that this 45% resolution rate is the highest we’ve measured since RightShip began to record abandonment data in 1991. Yet, a 45% resolution rate is still too low and abandoning essential workers should not at all be a part of the supply chain in the first place.
In disputed cases, economic pressures faced by seafarers impact the fairness of outcomes. They often do not realise that going unpaid for a couple of months can be a precursor to abandonment. So instead of staying onboard without pay, many choose to leave their vessel and look elsewhere for work. Yet, by doing so they have unknowingly put at risk any leverage they may have had to be paid what they are owed.
Over the last 20 years unpaid monies to abandoned seafarers adds up to $40 million
2017 MLC insurance and inspectorates
Back in 2017, new rules came into force on abandonment. Under the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC), shipowners need to have insurance to assist seafarers if abandoned.
By law, all ships entering Flag States that have ratified the MLC must post up their insurance certificate written in English, in a place visible to seafarers. The document should provide the name of the insurer or financial provider, and their contact details.
The key phrase is if a Flag State has “ratified the MLC”. Regretfully, while the MLC was ratified by the equivalent of 95% of world tonnage, less than 60% of the IMO’s 175 individual member states have ratified it. This reluctance, coupled with a lack of regular, adequate and competent inspectorates across the world required to check against MLC requirements, means the necessary action needed is ignored, and seafarers can still be left subject to abuse and mistreatment.
2022 Joint ILO-IMO meeting
With abandonment cases rising each year, the pressure is increasing for the IMO to come up with solutions which align with the MLC and go further to help seafarers. In December 2022, the newly formed joint International Labour Organization (ILO)–International Maritime Organization (IMO) Tripartite Working Group adopted guidelines on seafarer abandonment and other serious issues related to seafarer welfare, including how to treat suspects involved in maritime crimes, bullying and harassment, and sexual assault cases.
2022 ILO-IMO guidelines
Diving into the detail on tackling seafarer abandonment, the guidelines adopted so far recommend that Flag States, Port States, States where seafarers are national or resident, and States in which recruitment and placement services operate must work together to resolve abandonment cases more quickly.
- Prioritise getting seafarers paid and repatriated home to their families.
- Verify during inspections or at least annually, that each Flag State has a valid financial security system in place to protect seafarers.
The new Guidelines set out what States can do if a shipowner fails to fulfil their obligations to arrange and cover the costs of repatriation to seafarers and for outstanding wages and other contract entitlements, essential sustenance, and medical care.
RightShip measures which large Flag States have higher numbers of abandonments. By sharing where vessels have chosen their Flag State we aim to support the work of the IMO with location data. The work in 2022 of the ILO/IMO gives a strong message that everyone in the supply chain is responsible.
To support seafarers who have been abandoned we can help identify the world’s trouble spots. For States showing greater support for seafarer welfare, we hope to see less cases showing up year-on-year and we provide the full supply chain with a transparency that makes it increasingly difficult to perform these acts of disloyalty towards the seafarers.