Tuesday, May 27, 2014

'Black Sea of Shame' Prompts Union Action Over Appalling (and Illegal) Merchant Shipping Conditions

Crews Abused and Unseaworthy Ships are an Insult to Maritime Transport Industry
Shipping News Feature

EUROPE – BLACK SEA – The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) on Monday launched a week of action from ports on the Black Sea to combat what an updated report from the organisation finds are still shocking levels of crew abuse and unseaworthy vessels which continue operate in the area two years after the ITF, and its affiliated unions in Black Sea countries, launched an intensive campaign to expose the shameful conditions for merchant seamen employed in the region.

The updated report finds that the Black Sea region – or as it has been dubbed by the ITF, the Black Sea of Shame – remains one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a seafarer. This week of action is the latest step in the campaign to publicise and improve that disgraceful situation and joint teams of ITF inspectors and union activists in Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine will use it to inspect ships, inform seafarers of their rights, particularly under the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC), and highlight the need for drastic action by littoral state governments. ITF Maritime Coordinator Tomas Abrahamsson commented:

“Any honest observer will find themselves appalled by the low standards in this region. The state of some of these vessels and the abominable working conditions on them almost defy description. Unions are actively battling these conditions and, even in the face of current political events, they are focusing as usual on the interests of workers. There is, though, a crying need for genuine governmental action. There have been some encouraging detentions by port state control in Bulgaria and Russia but much more needs to be done.”

In describing the conditions in which seafarers are working in the Black Sea, the report states that since the MLC came into force, its impact has yet to be felt with the region still a haven for older vessels with inadequate insurance, operated by owners with scant regard for obligations to their crew. The report acknowledges political instability and a lack of political will make it difficult to develop robust national legislation and mechanisms to ensure effective implementation of internationally accepted standards. This update collects together examples of cases that would indicate that much more work is needed before the region can shake off that ignominious ‘Black Sea of Shame’ title.