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Bill of rights for seafarers to come into force
11:00am Tuesday 27th August 2013 in News
Dear Editor, Can I let your readers know of a momentous occasion which will take place on August 20?
For those of us who live by the sea, who are provided with our daily needs by seafarers, who depend on our livelihoods on or by the sea, and who care for seafarers, this day will be one we have long-waited to dawn.
The MLC (Maritime Labour Convention) 2006 is a ‘paradigm shift’ in the care of seafarers because, with its entry into force, seafarers have a degree of protection from the worst exploitation. When it comes into force on August 20, 2013 it will replace 40 existing conventions and 29 regulations. It will provide seafarers with fair terms of employment and guarantee them safe, secure and decent living and working conditions on board ship. Ship owners will benefit from having a clear, consistent set of standards with which all must comply.
As an example of how this may work in practice let me give you the ‘abandonment’ of a vessel to illustrate the point.
Today the Mission to Seafarers Central Office in London is dealing with seafarers who are trying to survive in desperate conditions. Their vessel is at anchor and the crew are unable to obtain shore access. They have only 15 litres of water between six of them that must last for three days until officials may allow access to the ship. There is no food on board.
That such a situation can arise is an indictment on the shipping industry. Not having been paid their wages for four months they are entirely dependent on charity and unable to return home at their own cost.
Closer to home, Falmouth Mission to Seafarers had such a case with Dona Liberta in the River Fal. The MLC will fix this. It won’t put an end to abandonments but it will help remove seafarers from the worst abuses.
A lack of food, water and generator fuel for lighting, heating or air conditioning; denial of medical care, restricted or no access to shore are the features of an abandoned ship. A ‘dead’ ship is an inhuman place with insect and possibly rodent infestation - this is the reality of abandonment with no hope of repatriation and home is a distant, unreachable dream.
Seafarers suffer and are vulnerable to the mistreatment that is so often out of sight, with vessels often at anchor or in a remote part of a port.
From August 20 onwards, if all else fails the flag state will have the responsibility of repatriation. Of course the practicalities will no doubt still be undertaken by port chaplains and welfare teams, the delivery of supplies, transportation to the medical facility and eventually the airport, but at least there will be a system in place and responsibilities clearly defined.
Kind regards Penny Phillips Chairman The Mission to Seafarers, Port of Falmouth.
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