MLC change ensures crew pay is protected during hostage situations

USS Kidd crew board the Iranian-flagged fishing dhow Al Molai to detain 15 suspected pirates who were holding a 13-member Iranian crew hostage. Credit: US Navy

Seafarers’ wages will soon be better protected in the event that they are taken hostage, on or off a ship, following the adoption of an amendment to the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006.

The proposed changes to MLC 2006, adopted by the International Labour Office’s (ILO’s) Special Tripartite Committee (STC), will close contractual gaps that have previously seen crew pay suspended during hostage situations.

Dave Heindel, chair of the International Transport Workers Federation’s (ITF’s) seafarers’ section and spokesperson for the seafarers’ group at the ILO session, said, “This result has been a critical step forward for seafarer protections.”

The State of Maritime Piracy 2015 Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) report previously had highlighted this issue, indicating lost wages add to the “severe physical, psychological, and emotional toll that hostages and their families experience”. The cost can be significant for crew and their families. The OBP report said that in 2015, using the mandated minimum wage from the MLC-mandated minimum wage of USD23/day, the captive seafarers of Naham 3, Prantalay 12, Siraj, and Jaber accrued approximately USD415,000 in lost wages.

Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, president of the World Maritime University and former ILO director, was closely involved for more than 15 years with the development, adoption, and implementation of the MLC 2006. She said the adoption of these amendments by the ILO tripartite constituency “will send an important signal to the world that the scourge of piracy and armed robbery are evils to be eliminated and that employers will meet their responsibilities when such events take place”.

Emma Mitchell, business director at UK security brokerage ASKET, told Fairplay sister title Safety at Sea, “With the recent increase in hostage-taking in the Gulf of Guinea and the fluidity in the way tactics can change almost overnight, we welcome the fact that the amendment will cover acts of piracy and/or armed robbery where a seafarer is unlawfully held or removed from a vessel. This will reassure many seafarers that the MLC is in tune with the risk.”

The STC’s Seafarers Group and Ship Owners Group jointly submitted three resolutions to draw to, and call for action by governments on, the facilitation of shore leave for seafarers and seafarer abandonment.

Doumbia-Henry said, “This resolution highlights the importance of implementation of a rather technical, but very important, ILO MLC dealing with biometrics and Seafarers’ Identity Documents (Convention No 185) and the way it can, if implemented widely, serve to support the needs of the industry and seafarers and also enhance border security.”

Contact Tanya Blake and follow her on Twitter: @tanya_blake

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