Under the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC), ship owners must have insurance to assist the seafarers on board vessels if they are abandoned.
All ships, to which the convention applies, whose flag states have ratified the MLC must have the insurance certificate on board and on show in English.
ITF president Paddy Crumlin said: “From tomorrow the mechanisms will be in place for a huge change that will finally treat the running sore of crew abandonment. At last the fundamental idea that those who send seafarers to sea have a responsibility for them is enshrined in regulation. This provision has been a long time coming, and, just as with the MLC itself, the ITF is proud to have been involved since its conception, working alongside the ILO, governments and shipping organisations.”
Abandonment occurs when the ship owner fails to cover the cost of the seafarer’s repatriation; or has left the seafarer without the necessary maintenance and support; or has otherwise unilaterally severed their ties with the seafarer including failure to pay contractual wages for a period of at least two months.
ITF says that the insurance will cover seafarers for up to four months outstanding wages and entitlements in line with their employment agreement or CBA, depending on when they apply.
The insurance must also cover reasonable expenses such as repatriation, food, clothing where necessary, accommodation, drinking water, essential fuel for survival on board and any necessary medical care, ITF said. It will apply from the moment of abandonment to the time of arrival back home.
The International Group of P&I clubs have set up 24 hour emergency helplines to assist the seafarers.
“It’s important that seafarers understand what the changes mean. We recommend that they check that there is a valid insurance certificate on board and realise that if abandonment does occur that they must raise the alarm right away. To help spread this message we’ve set up dedicated web pages in multiple languages www.itfseafarers-abandonment.org, and we are making available simple A4 instruction posters for use in missions and on ships,” ITF general secretary Steve Cotton said.