Seafarers left facing financial hardship after pirate attacks
Monday 24 June 2013, 16:18, by Liz McMahon
Several Filipino seafarers said their employer refused to pay them until they signed a “quit-claim” document.
THERE is a vast disparity in how seafarers who survive a pirate attack are treated by their employers, with consequences that include loss of pay and personal belongings without being reimbursed all too common, according to a new report.
The Human Cost of Maritime Piracy 2012 is produced by the Oceans Beyond Piracy project of the One Earth Future Foundation with the International Maritime Bureau and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme.
OBP interviewed several Filipino seafarers and their wives about the impact of piracy on their personal finances.
The seafarers had widely differing experiences, in terms of how their their finances were affected by how their employer behaved after an incident involving pirates.
Although some respondents had positive experiences and were grateful, others felt betrayed and angry that they were not compensated properly for the turmoil they endured.
Following a piracy incident, only 23% of those questioned were paid without delay. However, OBP found that pirates often robbed seafarers during a hijack — often making off with more than the $2,000 cover required by the Philippines Overseas Employment Agency.
“Given that most insurance coverage for loss of possessions has a maximum of $2,000, or in some cases $3,000, this leaves many seafarers undercompensated,” the report said.
Some respondents said their employers required them only to list their lost property to be fully reimbursed. But others accused their employers of questioning their list of property, then paying no compensation.
One seafarer said: “The company did not even bother reimbursing our personal losses. What was painful was they doubted my claim that I lost $7,000 [of onboard pay], my wedding ring, mobile phone and other personal items.
“Again, the reason for this is that there is no proper law. It is the seafarers who are suffering.”
According to discussions between MPHRP and seafarers previously held captive by pirates, seafarers tend to claim only high-value possessions, forgetting to include clothing and other small items.
Another area of concern for seafarers is that attacks can interrupt the voyage and affect the payment of wages.
Although wages can be sent directly to the seafarer, or to his or her family or split, OBP found that this was not always the case. Some seafarers held captive off the coast of Somalia for months or years then had their wages withheld or delayed.
Shorter hijackings of the kind more common off West Africa also cause problems for seafarers as they can interrupt contracts, reducing a seafarer’s earnings.
After a pirate attack, seafarers are often sent home before their contracts end, particularly those held captive for short periods that end before the contract period.
OBP said seafarers could also have their contract interrupted if a violent incident required them to be taken ashore for medical support or debriefing, their vessel sailing on with replacement crew.
Although the POEA requires seafarers to earn hazard or double pay for transiting high-risk areas, OBP spoke to seafarers whose payments were withheld or significantly delayed.
One said: “It was normal and expected that we asked for seven months’ worth of wages on board. We need clothes and shoes at least for our flight back home.
“What happened was they gave us each $500. I should have received $4,900 as I have a monthly onboard wage of $700. They only gave us $500.
“How are we supposed to function if we do not have money? After giving us $500, they promised that all wages will be settled in the Philippines. Even here in the Philippines, they paid us in instalments. Yes, they did pay, but it was in instalments.”
Other seafarers reported that employers pressed them to sign “quit-claim” documents before they received any pay.
The report concluded: “Companies and P&I Clubs must accept that quit-claims cannot apply in trauma situations and should be prepared to assist seafarers in getting the best medical care possible in order to recover.”
Article from Lloyd's List, Published: Monday 24 June 2013