One can understand that the printed edition of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (or STCW) cannot be given for free. Like any other publisher, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has to cover the cost of printing plus some markup for overhead expenses and profit. But why sell the electronic edition, and for a hefty £50 (USD67.16) at that?

It’s a question few maritime folks bother to ask. Yet, the point needs to be raised for two reasons.

First, because the selling of digital copies of IMO conventions is in stark contrast to the International Labour Organization policy of providing free online access to the full texts of all ILO conventions. Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, may be downloaded for free in PDF format (redistribution, however, requires ILO permission).

Second, and more importantly, the STCW is arguably the single most important protocal that governs the merchant marine profession. Why would the IMO deny seafarers online access to the full text of the Convention and the accompanying Code?

It cannot be that the IMO is too hungry for profit. Whatever money it can earn from the sale of its publications, printed or digital, is a drop in the ocean compared with contributions from IMO member states (these are based on the total fleet tonnage of each member). The only plausible explanation is that the IMO bureaucrats want to exercise power and control. “These publications are ours, and you need to pay even for the electronic editions!” is the message that reverberates from the IMO publications policy.

POWER and CONTROL Are these not also behind the IMO ‘s spearheading of the annual Day of the Seafarer celebration instead of the ILO? Or its hijacking of such labour-related issues as the mental health of seafarers and crew abandonment?

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