Saturday, November 26, 2011

Union Body Sets Wage Benchmark For Crews and Censures New Flag of Convenience

ITF Announces New Pay Rates for Seamen and Criticizes Scandinavian Ship Owners
Shipping News Feature

UK – WORLDWIDE – FAROE ISLANDS – The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) has this week set out its new benchmark rate, which lays out the monthly payment for an AB (able seaman) on a vessel covered by the organisation's total crew cost (TCC) agreement, for the next three years. The agreements are widely used on bulk freight and container vessels globally. At the same time the union organisation has come out against the Faroe Islands second ship register and declared it a flag of convenience.

The new recommended rate of pay for AB’s is US$ 1675 per month and this increases by 2% from the 1st January 2012 to $1709 followed by rises of 2.5% to $1752 in 2013 and 3% to $1805 the following year. Vessel operators which choose to adopt these agreements have the advantage of knowing precisely what their staff costs will equate to for a considerable time to come. The decision was made by the ITF’s fair practices steering group and maritime coordinator Steve Cotton commented:

“We feel that there is now enough economic progress in the industry to justify an increase. The benchmark applies not just to those under TCC agreements, but also stands as an example that is widely taken notice of throughout shipping, so we are glad to set out this progressive improvement in what seafarers earn.”

The ITF fair practices committee has also acted against the Faroe Islands National & International Ship Register (FAS) by declaring it a flag of convenience with all that implies. This is not to be confused with vessels registered under the Faroes flag or Merkið, but is a commercial operation with the motto ‘Freedom to Fly Your Own Flag’ stressing that tonnage does not need to be registered in the Faroe Islands or fly the Faroese flag and lauding the financial benefits of registering a vessel with the organisation whilst promoting a ‘Quality Image’ and claiming one of its prime purposes is to spread Faroese maritime influence with foreign vessels manned by Faroese crews.

Although established in 1992 it is only recently that the Faroes second ships register has given maritime unions cause for concern with companies like Nordic Offshore opening offices in the Islands and advertising management services for fleets flagged abroad but registered with FAS.

After Nor Lines, whose fleet was almost wholly Norwegian-flagged, reflagged to the FAS and began to lay off Norwegian crew, who were duly replaced with Philippine and Polish nationals, the ITF began investigating and negotiating in an effort to avoid the declaration. Steve Cotton responded with an explanation for the declaration and a thinly veiled threat that life may not be made easy for any vessel operator viewing this as a chance to reduce standards:

“This is a move we take reluctantly, and only after a lengthy search for a solution, in which we involved the Faroese Maritime Unions. However, it has proved unavoidable if the ITF’s Mexico City Policy (which reviewed the ITF’s whole FOC campaign) is to be applied fairly.

“For the Faroese second register this is likely to mean a new age of scrutiny of their vessels and workings. We stress that the Faroes flag, rather than this newer operation, remains unaffected and free to play its part in ensuring that the seagoing histories of the Faroes is respected and its crews continue to find the work they deserve.”

FAS now becomes the thirty third name on the ITF’s list of World Flags of Convenience, with the complete list viewable HERE.