InterManager: Criminalization, piracy hurting mariner recruitment

The following is a statement from InterManager:

(MUMBAI) — Shortages of skilled and qualified seafarers could have an immense impact on
the global economy and are being exacerbated by the negative impact of crew
criminalisation and the escalating problem of global piracy, warns
InterManager, the international trade association for the ship management
industry whose members represent more than 200,000 seafarers.

“Legislative measures following an accident or incident have made the
seafarer increasingly susceptible to criminalisation, and a rising incidence
of piracy has led to correspondingly high personal risks,” Brian Martis,
Chairman of the InterManager’s Criminalisation Committee told delegates at
today’s India Manning & Training Conference in Mumbai.

In addition, “A one-sided view of public interest coupled with political
expediency has severely curtailed the human rights of the seafarer,” he
said. “These factors have had a direct, negative impact on crew retention
and the natural replenishment of the work-force: potential recruits are
hesitant to take up a career at sea. The current shortage of skilled and
qualified seafarers – already a significant crisis in the maritime industry
– is further exacerbated.”

He continued: “Shipping being the prime mover of goods worldwide (90% of
trade), is critical to international commerce and development. The seafarer
is critical to shipping. There is already a crisis in marine manpower supply
with shortages estimated to continue for some years to come. The
legislations in recent years concerning pollution and the restrictions on
personal freedom as a result of the ‘War on Terror’ have combined to make
seafaring unattractive. Retention and fresh recruitment are directly
affected. The eventual impact the global economy and the environment cannot
be underestimated.”

Mr Martis pointed out that recent studies by BIMCO have identified 14 cases
of seafarers’ detainment that took place during an 11 year period involving
12 coastal states. These cases involved lengthy detainments and
“questionable” applications of law and resulted in no charges.

He cautioned: “The unfair treatment meted out to the officers concerned
resonates very strongly with the seafaring community both locally and
internationally. A sea-going career with such additional risks to personal
freedom and/or safety dissuades young men and women who are about to decide
their future careers. I know of several officers who have indicated they
will discourage their children from taking up a career at sea.”

InterManager has played an instrumental role in a number of high-profile
cases of criminalisation recently including the Hebei Spirit and the

Mr Martis informed conference delegates that recent cases have shown a
marked tendency for seafarers to be:
. criminally prosecuted for maritime accidents beyond their control
. criminally prosecuted for maritime accidents where there has been
some negligence, regardless of the fact that such negligence is not
considered criminal in the maritime industry
. detained indefinitely within the country that is bringing charges
against them
. held as “security” or “material witnesses” till the ship owner or
P&I Club pays up
. held in custody without any access to legal assistance or without
being formally convicted of a criminal offence
. denied shore leave for arbitrary reasons

Urging the shipping world to tackle the issue of unfair criminalisation, Mr
Martis proposed: “2010 is the Year of the Seafarer and what better way to
pay homage than to contribute towards improving his working conditions and
protecting his human rights?”

By Professional Mariner Staff