• Thursday, June 13, 2024


Indian seafarers the most abandoned worldwide, shows data

So far this year, 411 cases of Indian seafarers being abandoned have been recorded, surpassing last year’s total of 401.

A large ship transporting numerous cargo containers through San Francisco Bay heading out to sea. (Photo: iStock)

By: Vivek Mishra

Indian seafarers hold the unfortunate distinction of being the most abandoned nationality, according to figures released by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

So far this year, 411 cases of Indian seafarers being abandoned have been recorded, surpassing last year’s total of 401. The ITF aims to highlight the dire situation faced by seafarers who are abandoned by shipowners.

“In 2024, Indian seafarers are the most abandoned nationality of seafarer, followed by Filipinos and Syrians,” an ITF analysis stated. “Today, 16 Indian seafarers are stuck on board two vessels in deplorable conditions in the United Arab Emirates,” it noted.

One vessel, Seashine 7, has been anchored off the coast of Sharjah for two months, with its six Indian crew members enduring between five and eight months onboard. They are owed over £31,500 in unpaid wages, with inadequate provisions and malfunctioning air conditioning in the scorching May heat.

The other vessel, Sunshine 7, has been anchored in Dubai for 20 months, with 10 Indian nationals onboard. Seven of them are seeking ITF assistance after going unpaid for periods ranging from five to 18 months, totalling over £27,500 in owed wages. The crew faces similarly harsh conditions, with limited generator usage, no refrigeration, and unbearable cabin temperatures forcing them to sleep on the deck. The ITF noted that the passports of some crew members requesting assistance have been taken by the company.

The ITF is also drawing attention to the misuse of Flags of Convenience (FOC) by shipowners, where vessels fly the flag of a country other than their own to exploit lax regulations. “FOCs offer countries without their own shipping industry a way to make easy money. The country can set up ship registries and charge fees to shipowners, while having none of the crew safety and welfare responsibilities of a genuine flag state,” the ITF stated.

“The real ship owner (what the ITF calls the ‘beneficial owner’) benefits from having their identity hidden and adopting the often-poor regulatory standards of the flag, which can also include no restriction on the nationality of a crew. In many cases, these flags are not even run from the country concerned,” it added.

The ITF campaign against FOCs has two elements: a political effort to eliminate the system by achieving global acceptance of the need for a genuine link between a ship’s flag and the nationality or residence of its owners, managers, and seafarers, and an industrial effort to ensure that seafarers on FOC ships are protected from exploitation.

The ITF says this has resulted in enforcing decent minimum wages and conditions on board thousands of FOC ships. “The ITF has worked tirelessly to raise awareness throughout the seafarer community about what abandonment is and how to seek help,” the union said. “The ITF has a zero-tolerance stance on abandonment. Our inspectorate of over 130 trained inspectors across 120 ports in 59 countries routinely inspect ships to check conditions on board and ensure contracts are being adhered to. They also respond to distress calls from seafarers,” it added.


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