On Tuesday, the rise in the desertion of seafarers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was discussed comprehensively at the CrewConnect Europe Virtual conference. Desertion has increased as more companies have gone bankrupt in the last 18 months, remarked Natalie Shaw (Director of Employment Affairs, ICS).
Revd Canon Andy Bowermann (Mission to Seafarers' Regional Director, Middle East & South Asia), highlighting the situation in the Middle East and Gulf region, said, "Over the last two years, we've been engaged in the repatriation of over 100 seafarers in some capacity."
There are about 5O cases of seafarer abandonment this year, claims Shaw. According to the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), the highest number of desertion cases were reported on Panama-flagged vessels (18). Although Panama is the largest flag state, the numbers are still significantly higher in most cases than in other states, according to Shaw.
Other than Panama, Iran had the next highest cases reported, followed by Cameroon and Mongolia. Cases in the double digits can also be found in Bolivia, Ukraine, and Bahrain. Ukraine, Bahrain, Cameroon, and Bolivia are states with no ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC). This turned out to be another issue relating to the states not getting themselves ratified to come under the MLC party.
The MLC ensures that shipowners have mandated insurance to cover such desertions. The MLC provides that shipowners must have mandatory insurance cover for abandonment.
"23 percent of the cases involve vessels that are not subject to the MLC 2006's insurance obligations. The fact is that if no action is taken, it is exceedingly difficult to get an effective settlement in certain instances", added Shaw stressing over the last 18 months' cases.
Flag State, Port State, and the country of nationality are the 3 default action layers. If the labor supply nation has MLC ratification, there are further obligations.
However, Shaw said, "India has the most abandonments, but does not appear to respond to the return of its mariners. The mechanisms in place aren't being used. "