Abandoned crew will receive greater protection from unscrupulous ship owners thanks to a new partnership between the Federal Transport Authority and a global worker’s union.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation has signed an agreement with the FTA to work together to protect the rights of all seafarers operating in UAE waters.
It will allow the two bodies to consult, co-operate and co-ordinate jointly and continuously to find legal solutions regarding the abandonment of seafarers.
An agreement was signed at the International Maritime Organisation in London.
“This is a significant opportunity to work with our partners in the UAE to bring seafarers and workers’ safety to forefront of the conversation,” said Stephen Cotton, ITF general secretary.
“This agreement is just the beginning and will hopefully pave the way for similar agreements in other territories.”
The agreement is the latest development to protect crews and follows the increased legal responsibility of ship owners towards their crew.
In February, compulsory insurance was required by ship owners entering UAE waters to guarantee four months salary for crew, and repatriation costs.
It is an important step that should help protect seafarers, Dr Paul Burt from the Mission to Seafarers, an international welfare charity that helps merchant crews, said.
“Maritime activity is a significant part of the UAE’s identity,” he said.
“This area cannot be a black spot, so the FTA has taken on more of a role in trying to ensure the abandonments become less common.
“There is now compulsory insurance required for ship owners liability towards seafarers should there be any problems with finance.
“It shows progress is being made, but will take time to filter through the system.
‘It will make abandoning these smaller operations uneconomic as they will not be able to afford the insurance on this kind of scale.”
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Legal advice, when required, is currently offered to Mission to Seafarers by legal experts at Clyde and Co, one of the businesses offering annual support to the charity.
Clyde and Co has a pro-bono programme giving legal support in terms of operation and governance, such as registration or employment contracts.
“It ensures they are well governed, and they don’t incur these costs,” said Community Investment Manager, Sinead Boden.
“Although we don’t get directly involved in specific cases, we do offer advice to the mission that may help seafarers who have got into legal difficulties, for abandonment, or non-payment of wages.
“The benefit Clyde and Co offers is to act as mediators between individual seafarers and whoever is causing them problems, either the shipowner or port operator.
“They are not easily resolved.”