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Life is hard enough for seafarers without other people making it harder. Alas, there is no shortage of individuals, often including one’s kith and kin, who would take advantage of this group of workers. Ironically, some institutions and regulations are the very source of the exploitation and the suffering. The following is a list of things many seafarers have to put up with as they struggle to build a better future for themselves and their families.

1   Unending mandatory training and certification

2   Refusal of the International Maritime Organization to provide free access to the full texts of the STCW and other IMO conventions

3   High cost of training courses

4   Substandard or unscrupulous training centres

  Unholy alliance between training centres and crewing managers

  Instructors who can’t speak proper English

7   Too few shipboard apprecentice slots

 The flunkey system (serving as unpaid office workers/servants for manning agencies and seafarer unions)

9   Manning agents who manipulate the foreign exchange rate to steal from seafarers’ remittances 

10 Crewing managers who ask for money or gifts

11 Favouritism in the hiring of crews

12 Red tape in the maritime bureaucracy

13 Corrupt government employees

14 Fixers

15 Tyrannical ship captains

16 Cultural differences/friction among multinational crews

17 Sexual abuse/gender discrimination on board

18 Performing cargo handling jobs that should be done by shoreside personnel

19 Too much paperwork for ship officers

20 Lack of proper safety appliances on board

21 Shipboard accidents

22 Inadequate food and accommodations on board

23 Poor or no wifi connection at sea

24 Restrictions on shore leave

25 Non-payment or delayed release of wages and overtime pay

26 Depression at sea

27 Difficulty of securing health or disability benefits

28 Greedy maritime lawyers

29 Loan sharks

30 Unions that collect membership dues without giving tangible benefits to seafarers

31 Families who squander money sent home by the seafarer

32 Relatives who ask for money

33 A cheating wife (or husband)

34 Women who are just after one’s money

35 Loss of friends and the respect of society when a seafarer has become impoverished

Dancing sailors, c.1918, by Charles Demuth (American, 1883–1935) 

~ Barista Uno

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