Seafarers welfare group slams poor conditions onboard ships

Most shipping companies still not offering acceptable working and living facilities

  • Steve Matthews, LLOYD’S LIST
  • MOST shipping companies are still providing inadequate conditions for seafarers onboard ships, according to David Dearsley, head of strategic review and development project for the International Committee on Seafarers’ Welfare and formerly secretary-general of employers organization International Maritime Employers’ Committee.

    Speaking at the Informa European Manning and Training Conference in Dubrovnik, Mr Dearsley issued a strong and wide-ranging criticism of working and living conditions on board many ships.

    He said that in the Year of the Seafarer, when most attention has been focused on piracy and criminalisation, the daily conditions and facilities for seafarers must improve if the industry was to attract the high quality recruits it needed.

    Although some leading companies offered good conditions, the majority only met minimum standards, which were not good enough.

    He revealed that the International Seafarers’ Assistance Network, a help line for seafarers, received about 300 calls a month, leading to about 70 new cases. Almost half raised multiple issues, including welfare, contract terms, living conditions and bullying.

    Mr Dearsley said there were still numerous cases of ships and seafarers being abandoned, with some 56 ships abandoned, leaving 1,000 seafarers stranded in 2009 alone. In January this year alone, around the world 67 ships were released by port state authorities after having been detained for a total of 610 days for various serious deficiencies.

    Even where there are no specific major issues or non-compliance, normal shipboard conditions and facilities are not adequate for today’s standards and expectations.

    “Food is generally bland and boring at sea, living accommodation is strictly functional [and] there is a lack of social stimulation,” Mr Dearsley said. “We have not moved forward in how we treat our crew when they are off watch in 40 years.”

    Other aspects that he identified included the persisting dominant masculine culture on board, which he argued affected accident avoidance as seafarers did not take adequate precautions and they commonly neglected health issues. Offering only short-term employment contracts sent the wrong message to potential recruits.

    Mr Dearsley added that the ICSW was trying to address some of these issues and offer incentives to shipping companies to provide more than the minimum conditions for seafarers they employ.

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