ITF declares rise in Seafarer Abandonment in 2023 is “Unacceptable”

Seafarer Abandonment

Report: ITF declares rise in Seafarer Abandonment is “Unacceptable”

24th January 2024

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has released alarming data regarding the exploitation of seafarers, showing an 11% rise in cases of crew abandonment in 2023 over 2022. This alarming number reflects the 132 ships that have been reported abandoned, leaving seafarers stranded and in helpless circumstances.

According to the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006 , a ship is deemed abandoned if the shipowner loses away contact with the crew, does not pay wages for a minimum of two months, or does not cover the cost of repatriation or necessary support. Often leaving seafarers penniless and without basic necessities, these ruthless acts trap them in a state of limbo.

Seafarer Abandonment
Image Credits: IMO

The ITF report reveals an alarming pattern of rising unpaid wages. The remarkable $12.1 million in unpaid wages from the 129 cases that were reported in 2023 demonstrated a blatant pattern of exploitation. Regrettably, since 2019, this number has been rising steadily, indicating a systematic disregard for the fundamental rights of seafarers.

However, the ITF refuses to stand idly by. Their relentless efforts have borne fruit, with over $10.9 million recovered in owed wages from 60 abandoned vessels. This demonstrates their invaluable role in holding exploitative shipowners accountable and providing much-needed relief to affected seafarers.

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Steve Trowsdale, the ITF Inspectorate Coordinator, called the increase in abandonments “unacceptable” and said it was “a consequence of an industry where the seafarer can be a throw-away commodity.” Criticizing the “greed and non-compliance of ship owners,” he went on to highlight the human cost of their deeds.

According to the ITF report, with 23 cases in 2023, Panama, the largest flag state in the world, had the highest number of abandonments. Liberia and the Marshall Islands are the second and third largest flag states in the world, respectively, but they did not rank among the eight flag states with the highest number of abandonments in 2023.

Conclusion

The ITF’s report presents a disconcerting image of disregard and abuse in the marine sector. A sobering reminder of these vital workers’ vulnerability is the growing number of unclaimed wages and abandoned seafarers. To end this cruel practice, governments, flag states, and industry stakeholders must work together with the ITF. We can only guarantee that seafarers—the backbone of international trade—get the respect and safety they are due by working together.

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