The way shipowners and the unions have been talking about ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, one would think that a Great New Dawn is coming. A time when the basic rights of seafarers are respected by those who have begrudged them those rights. A time when seafarers are given what they need and deserve. A time when seafarers can stand tall, knowing they’re no longer regarded as commodities but as human beings. How we wish it would be so.
Don’t get us wrong. MLC 2006 is a major step forward, not only in the evolution of seafarers’ rights, but in the evolution of shipping itself. But we refuse to be sucked into the vortex of rising expections from what is undoubtedly a watershed international treaty. Indeed, we have huge reservations which some might consider as bordering on skepticism. We have three good reasons:
There will always be bad shipowners in spite of strict Port State and Flag State inspections under MLC 2006. If compliance with international maritime regulations were a simple matter of law enforcement, we would have long ago seen an end to substandard shipping and such wicked practices as double bookkeeping and the doctoring of ship’s documents to cover up misdeeds.
Fear of recrimination may well discourage seafarers from coming forward and reporting MLC 2006 violations. Seafarers from the Philippines and other developing countries are generally not a complaining lot. Many are afraid of losing their jobs, which makes them vulnerable to initimidation and harassment from shipowners, shipmanagers and their manning agents.
MLC 2006, to be successful, requires a sea-change in the way shore staff and even senior ship officers treat seafarers. How could this happen anytime soon? In Manila, the world’s crewing capital, maritime cadets serve for months on end as unpaid office help in exchange for the chance to go to sea. The flunkey system is as exploitative as human trafficking; yet manning agents and even the unions see nothing wrong with it.
It’s a damaged maritime culture and one encounters it not only in Manila. How to change it? The answer cannot be found in any maritime convention but in the hearts and minds of all those who comprise the world shipping community. Grandiose as it may sound, what we need is a spiritual transformation of shipping. ~Barista Uno
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Seafarer education and MLC 2006
You are right, Barista. This flunkey system won’t end.
Here in Manila training centers continue disseminating info to most seafarers that they have to retrain again for those NAC
certificates like firefighting, basic safety, medical first aid, meca and a lot more retraining for those oldtime seafarers whose COC is about to expire.
I don’t know what’s the logic. We have been at sea for a long time and aware of all those. So much weekly drills and scenarios, and now they want us to retake basic safety. It seems that we are already in college level and they want us to go back to kindergarten. I don’t know what kind of mentality these people have.
The legal bodies supposed to make sure that MLC-2006 is implemented & enforced are PSC & Flag, but are they up to the job?
In developed countries, due to economic pressures they have reduced their manpower even on PSC/Flag inspection side. So for sure there won’t be enough inspectors to do the job.
However, we all know that most atrocities happen in the third world countries. So what do you think will happen there? I will tell you. More cigarette cartons and whisky bottles to be sanctioned by owners to bribe their way out.
Greed has taken over the humanity in shipping industry for a long time now. As you mentioned, a change of ‘Heart’ and ‘Attitude’ looks more like the remedy.
We all know who the devil is, and fear is its weapon…
Writing this one up onboard a cape size collier and showing the chief mate (Korea) and third mate (Myanmar) what I am doing.
We all came from the same mold, breaking that mold of ‘scared sailors’ is the best shield against evil.
Mistreatment of seafarers won’t change. The most common problems we’ve experienced here in Manila:
1. Short-changing and late remittances of our monthly wages.
2. Our medical is only good for one contract, short or long, while the European is valid for two years. It seems the manning agencies in Manila get rebates from the diagnostic centers.
3. Filipino contract is longer compared with European and other countries. There must be uniformity. All of us are humans, not robots. Our family also needs us.
4. Filipino medical examination is so strict while the European seafarers, even those who are very old and have asthma and hardly can walk, are still given permission for sea duty.
5. Most manning agencies in Manila take advantage of those special allotments and extra remittances from seafarers. They will use the money for a month for bank interest even in emergency cases. They will only remit the money to the receiver after so many complaints from the seafarer.
Manning agencies in Manila are doing tricks just to catch senior officers. They offer slightly higher wages for officers but after you have taken all those in-house courses and before signing of the contract, you will find out that the salary they offered is very low. The returning bonus and union dues are included in their computation of wages, and it’s too late for you back out because they will ask you to pay for the in-house courses you have just taken. Believe it guys, it’s so expensive. It’s really open swindling by these manning agencies.
Manning agencies in Manila oblige their seafarers to collect their leave pay after they’ve signed off. And most of the time, the poor sailor receives the money in a month’s time. Manning agencies try to do business with seafarers’ money. It’s a long-time practice but nobody in government cares.
Several manning agencies in Manila force ratings to take various safety courses which are not required just because of the big rebates the training centers provide.
It’s a practice in most manning agencies in Manila to send experienced seafarers on board. But it never happens that seafarers join a vessel newly promoted, not even with the length of service to the company. Promotion on board is very hard due to discrimination. Manning agencies never have the courage to endorse the qualified seafarers for promotion. which is totally different from other nationalities. A Filipino third mate would serve with his rank five or six years after passing the examination. This is one of the reasons we have a shortage of engine and deck officers.