Bufete de Informaciones Especiales y Noticias

Spanish case illustrates abandonment problem

Rebanadas de Realidad - ITF, Londres, 24/08/09.- The ITF is pointing to a case of abandonment in Spain as a typical example of the kind of problem its inspectors are increasingly seeing. The Federation says that it is currently assisting an increasing number of abandoned crews and recently detailed one of its inspectors to head up a relief effort to tackle abandonment-like conditions on laid-up ships at Istanbul.*

ITF Maritime Coordinator Steve Cotton explained: “We knew this rise would be coming and first put our inspectors on standby for it last year, but that doesn’t make it any less serious.”

“I repeat the offer I made in February**: any shipping company or financial institution with a maritime client having difficulties – in particular financial problems which are likely to adversely effect crews, can come to us to discuss how we may be able to help.”

He added: “It's difficult to put an exact figure to the increase, since the fine details vary, while on some laid up ships and vessels belonging to companies with severe cash flow problems you have all the features of abandonment even when technically that hasn’t yet happened. So far this year we’ve notified 30 ongoing cases of abandonment to the ILO. That figure doesn't include the special project in Turkey, where there are around 15 vessels arrested with abandoned crew on board, or the constant stream of cases coming in that are borderline abandonments. At the moment we’re looking to get the cases resolved with the best possible outcome for the seafarers - statistical analysis will come later."

Cotton pointed to the case of the 1985 built, St Vincent & Grenadines-flagged Virtus as just one example of a typical current incident. This ship arrived at La Coruña on 11th June this year after experiencing mechanical problems in the Finisterre corridor en route to the Persian Gulf with cargo on board. Due to financial problems it’s still there.

The ITF got involved on 7th of July, when a first visit by ITF inspector Luz Baz established that the 12 Russian and Ukrainian crew members were without provisions and about to run out of water and fuel. The crew made a claim for unpaid wages up to 15th of August of US$ 65,515.00.

Luz Baz explained: “We contacted Sierra Maritime, the Estonian shipowner, and discovered that they were declaring bankruptcy, but after negotiations they agreed to send some money for food via the local agent, Finisterre AM. But as the agent was also owed money they arrested the payment themselves.”

She continued: “After that we had to fall back on local resources. Thankfully the Spanish Red Cross and several local NGOs are supporting the crew for now, while the port is supplying fresh water and electricity.”

“The vessel has cargo on board but neither the time charterer Ukraine-based, Varamar, nor the cargo owners’ representatives, Seven Seas Shipping Co, are willing to give the money in advance to the crew. We’ve reported the case to the flag state, but have received no help from them. We consider St Vincent a flag of convenience and our hopes that they’ll assist in sorting out this problem on one of their flag vessels aren’t high. It has also been reported to the ILO-IMO databases and to the Russian and Ukrainian embassies.

She concluded: “This is yet another case of an abandoned vessel, of workers who have not been paid, haven’t the money to get home and didn’t even have food onboard. I just wonder when this situation will change, and appeal to the shipowners, to the flag and port states, to the agents, charterers and cargo owners to face up to their responsibilities here, and to do it now.”

* www.itfglobal.org/press-area/index.cfm/pressdetail/3470

** www.itfglobal.org/press-area/index.cfm/pressdetail/3047/region/1/section/0/order/1

The ITF is a global union federation that represents around five million transport workers in nearly 700 trade unions in 150 countries worldwide. El presente material se publica en Rebanadas por gentileza de Sam Dawson, Oficial de prensa de la ITF / Web