Thank you for subscribing to Seavoices’ updates!

Please take a moment to check your email inbox and confirm your subscription to start receiving the latest news and updates.

23 Nov 2022
2 mins
Seafarer abandonment likely hit record levels for third year in a row

Industry officials forecasted that 2022 would be on track to surpass the record 95 cases recorded globally last year.

It was reported that crew abandonment cases increased by 138% last year and that the International Transport Workers’ Federation clawed back some $37 million in wages that had been withheld from crew by shipowners.

According to a statement released by ITF, its 125 inspectors and coordinators completed 7,265 inspections to support thousands of seafarers with wage claims and repatriation cases last year.

“Inspectors are trained to look for exploitation, overwork — even for signs of forced labour and modern slavery. On many vessels, inspectors have the right to examine wage accounts, employment contracts, and to review recorded hours of work and rest.”

Mr Steve Trowsdale, the ITF’s Inspectorate Coordinator, was quoted as saying it was not uncommon for crew to be paid at the wrong rate by a shipowner, or less than the rate set out in the employment agreement covering the ship.

“Concerningly, we’re seeing a rise in the number of seafarers reporting non-payment of wages for periods of two months or longer, which actually meets the ILO’s definition of abandonment.

“Seafarers might think it’s normal to go unpaid for a couple of months, waiting for a shipowner to sort out financing, but they need to be aware that non-payment can also be a sign that a shipowner is about to cut them loose and leave them abandoned.”

“There is evidence that some shipowners were using Covid-19 as an excuse to keep seafarers working beyond their initial contracts and in complete violation of those seafarers’ human and labour rights,” Mr Trowsdale highlighted.

An article from Nautilus International quoted International Maritime Organization’s senior legal officer Jan De Boer as saying that there have been 91 new cases reported in 2022, “thus alarmingly surpassing last year’s record of reported cases of abandonment”. Mr De Boer presented this stark figures from a global Abandonment of Seafarers database which has tracked the recent but rapid rise of this humanitarian issue.

The database was set up in 2002 by IMO and ILO. During 2012 and 2016, between 12 and 19 incidents were reported annually. During the first year of the pandemic in 2020, abandonment cases rose to 85, and peaked further at 95 last year.

For three years in a row, the cases of seafarer abandonment around the world are likely to reach another new record level.