Member unions of
the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) have helped recover more
than $1.7 million in wages owed to seafarers amid a concerning rise in
abandonment cases by shipowners.
The national union
affiliates have assisted more than 135 seafarers across 12 ships in the Arab
World to return to their families across the globe
abandonment and unpaid wages are definitely on the rise across the world, and
in this region in particular. We’re also seeing more employers withholding the
wages they owe to seafarers – and seafarers are paying the price,”Mohamed Arrachedi,
the ITF’s Arab World and Iran Network coordinator, said.
Arrachedi said that, in typical cases of
abandonment, employers will stop paying wages for a number of weeks, then
seafarers avoid arguing with their employer because they might be blacklisted
and another contract will be denied
.As explained, many seafarers are often
concerned about the consequences of arguing with their employer over matters
like pay as they fear they might be blacklisted and won’t be able to get
The second reason for the hesitancy to
speak out is that shipowners are seafarers’ tickets home. Under the Maritime
Labour Convention, an employer pays for the cost of getting seafarers to and
from ships. Seafarers worry that an angered shipowner could defer or deny them
repatriation as punishment for raising concern over unpaid wages.
What is more, repatriation during
COVID-19 relies heavily on the determination of the employers to navigate
obstructive bureaucracy and put seafarers on record-high priced flights.
For many seafarers tired after 12, 14 or
18 months at sea and desperate to get home, making an enemy of their employer
is a risk they are not willing to take.
The 17-member crew of the
Moldovan-flagged cargo carrier MV Mako dared to speak up after they went a full
nine months without getting paid.
After being paid three months of wages
from when he joined the ship in Algeria, an Egyptian seafarer stopped receiving
payments from his employer.
contacted ITF for assistance when wages and repatriation denied
By the time the Mako was docked in the
Port of Aden, Yemen, in August 2020, he had been on board for twelve months,
nine of them unpaid.
He demanded to leave the ship, be paid
his outstanding wages, and be repatriated home. He contacted the ITF for
Under ITF pressure, the company agreed to
arrange and pay for the seafarer’s flight home. The ITF ensured he was paid his
$5,292 in withheld wages, as well as a refund for the travel expenses he
incurred joining the ship.
“We can bring the
impunity of some bad shipowners to an end. The first step is for seafarer to
contact the ITF,” he concluded.