Monday, 7 July, 2008

Comprehensive convention for seafarers in the offing

Under the aegis of the Forward Union of Seafarers’ of India (FUSI) a meet the press programme was held on June 28, 2008 to facilitate an interaction with Mr. Dani Appave, Senior Maritime Specialist from the Geneva office of the International Labour Organisation and Dr. Suresh Idnani, the Regional Coordinator for South Asia of the International Committee on Seafarers’ Welfare (ICSW).
They informed about the activities of ICSW which was an international umbrella organisation dedicated to the practical implementation of the International Labour Organisation instruments on Seafarers Welfare Convention 163 & Recommendation 173.
Mr. Appave stated, “ILO is an organisation which brings together all seafarers, the associations of ship owners and other NGO in order to work together to provide welfare to seafarers their families and other of those who are connected.” He went on to describe the role ILO played since its inception before the world wars.”

He related how the ILO was instrumental in the formation of 30 different conventions. But there have been loopholes in the conventions whereby seafarers did not get the full benefits. In this regard he said the ILO has come up with a new comprehensive Bill of Rights for Maritime Sector. The work for this began in 2000 in order to have a global comprehensive convention.

This will have to be ratified by the member states otherwise their ships will not have the proper documents and certification and will not be allowed to be traded in the proper way. The port state will check and inspect.

Already three ratifications have taken place, which include Bahamas, Marshall Islands and Liberia. “We need only 30% to ratify and must comprise of 33% of the world fleet,” he said. “By end of this year we will reach 40% of the member states. We expect our target to be reached by 2011.”

Called the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 it covers only merchant vessels but not fishing vessels. During the draft this was overlooked. So now the ICSW was therefore in the process of preparing a draft of the convention for fishing vessels.
Explaining the relationship, Dr Idnani informed that in older times seafarers could come ashore and meet their people and others and also attend to domestic chores. This is not possible now. So we have ship visits to meet the seafarers and help them in creating a link with their families, religious organisation and with their religious pastors. There are some ports where ships do remain for a longer time especially bulk vessels. ICSW is helping us to develop centres for the benefit of seafarers.
Health and welfare were two important factors which go together. Hence, according to Mr Appave the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 has various issues that have been dealt under various heads.
These are the minimum requirements required for seafarers to work on a ship; the conditions of employment; Accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering; health protection, medical care, welfare and social security protection and compliance and enforcement.
“What is of great importance is that various crucial issues have been dealt with in the conditions of employment,” said Dr Idnani. “In particular these issues include the seafarer’s employment agreements, the wages, hours of work and hours of rest. It clearly demarcates the entitlement for leave, repatriation, seafarer compensation for the ship’s loss or foundering, manning levels and career and shill development and opportunities for seafarers.”
Forward Seamen's Union of India in a statement issued later on stated that it is certainly in favour of the convention and its early ratification. The MLC-2006 has many good points, which ensures safety of personnel, starting from the point of recruitment of a seafarer and through his employment and till signing off from the vessel. The ratification and implementation of the convention by Govt. of India will bring a proper procedure of employment of seafarers and fix responsibility of seafarers’ life, their salaries, their employment, their duty, their rest, their entertainment and other facilities on board. More than anything the MLC-2006 leads the way to provide relief and safety to the seafarers in the course of their employment. The social benefits of the seafarer are also clearly defined and the responsibility fixed. The Missing ships and Missing seafarers will be properly accounted and stranded and / or abandoned seafarers will get justice.
Considering all these plus points the Forward Seamen's Union of India urges the Govt. of India, for taking all necessary steps to ratify the MLC-2006 at the earliest.

Mr Appave’s while at his office at ILO in Geneva had met a cross section of the shipping industry after having an interaction with the Indian government representatives. He gave a brief about the response he received. He also fielded questions from the press on the recent M. V. Rezzak tragedy and how he felt that similar situations would not take place once the MLC 2006 came into force.

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