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The impact of COVID-19 on seafarers’ rights

As the novel coronavirus marches on, the global shipping community is hailing seafarers as the “Unsung Heroes of Global Trade”. The slogan sounds nice but hollow. In fact, it is downright disingenuous.

How can the words ring true when thousands of seafarers have been stranded in foreign ports and harbours because of COVID-19? That the problem exists on such a scale shows how the maritime world really regards the men and women who toil at sea: they are commodities.

8 special memes for seafarers in this time of pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic is a dark time for the entire world. Even so, it has served to highlight the true state of seafarers’ rights — minus the rhetoric and euphemisms the shipping industry loves to use. The following memes contain some of my personal views on the subject in light of COVID-19. I have created them especialy for seafarers to share with others.

Labour Day tribute to child workers in lieu of seafarers

With so much din and clamour over seafarers’ rights, many people could be forgetting that the exploitation of child is a far greater problem. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 152 million are victims of child labour worldwide (see the ILO facts and figures here). The following 19th-century paintings should serve as a Labour Day reminder of this ugly ever-present reality.

A seafarer’s short guide to choosing a manning agency

There are good and bad manning agencies, but I personally would rather have a hiring hall do the crew selection and deployment. I have seen enough in maritime Manila to say that crewing companies are a necessary evil. But they are not going away anytime soon. The best that seafarers can do is be discerning enough to deal only with the decent ones — definitely not an easy task if there are so many to choose from.

12 simple ways seafarers can protect their rights

It is not always easy for seafarers to assert their rights. The mere act of complaining (even on social media) may put them in disfavour with manning agents, ship masters, and others in authority. Reporting non-payment of wages and other abuses to the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) could get them blacklisted.

In Manila, even doctors can prey on seafarers

It is easy to be jaded when it comes to the exploitation of seafarers. The tales of woe never seem to end, and one tends to grow tired of hearing them. My unjaded eyes, however, have not ceased to be surprised by the myriad ways in which Filipino seafarers are taken advantage of. Even medical doctors may connive with unscrupulous manning agencies to prey on seafarers.

Why join the ‘wellness at sea’ and other bandwagons?

There is nothing wrong with bandwagons per se. In fact, they are often necessary in bringing about change as the whole world is witnessing in the case of women’s rights and climate action. The problem arises when people are swayed by rhetoric, not reason, and unthinkingly hop onto the wagon just because it is fashionable to do so. Unfortunately, this is happening with the bandwagon that carries the banners “Wellness at Sea” and “Seafarer Mental Health”.

Drumming up the abuse of cadets in a deaf world

Who gives a hoot in Manila about maritime cadet exploitation?… In this part of the planet, manning agencies and some unions consider it perfectly normal to use cadets as unpaid labour, in many cases for months on end. The seafarer charities are aware of the practice, but none has come out to publicly condemn it. As for local maritime journalists, many would rather kiss ass than take up the cudgels for the cadets who are exploited in such blatant manner