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ITF refutes call for mutiny onboard ships

ITF refutes call for mutiny onboard ships
Yashika F. Torib July 8, 2020

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has refuted allegations that it is calling for mutiny onboard ships when it suggested that seafarers should stop working as soon as their contracts are finished.

This came on the heel of criticisms that ITF recently drew from some seafarers and employers following an announcement, released by its president Paddy Crumlin, who stated, “If you have finished your contract, then you have the right to be repatriated. If this is not possible, then you would remain on board as a passenger. The consequences could be that the ship is unable to sail if the manning level is inadequate but that is not your responsibility.”

Crumlin’s announcement draw flak from veteran mariners with one of them contending that ITF did not exactly offer a solution with such a recommendation.

“IMO (International Maritime Organization) should impose sanctions to member countries who do not allow crew change. Asking seafarers to stop working is not a solution; the reality that most international flights are still not allowed remains – things that are beyond the control of ship owners. I hope ITF would stop feeding wrong ideas to seafarers because they are already suffering as it is. Telling them to quit is synonymous to future unemployment as it will taint their reputation of professionalism in the sector,” the seafarer, who requested not to be named, said.

“This recommendation is unsafe for the ship and impractical for its operations,” said maritime specialist and veteran ship captain Jerry Simon.

The veteran seafarer, while looking into the welfare of seafarers, also remarked on the professionalism and reliability that Filipino sailors are known for. “If you are an engineer or a navigating officer, will you leave your post just because your contract is done? Such willful manner was never the case for Filipino seafarers. It seems like the ITF is standardizing a mutiny that would eradicate the hardworking and less-complaining Filipinos from ships. We should not fall into this nice sounding trap,” he said, referring to the probable blacklisting that “persistent” seafarers may receive from ship owners.

In a statement, ITF maritime coordinator Jacqueline Smith emphasized that the organization is merely finding solutions to the crew change crisis since the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

“We have been clear that this is not an incitement to strike or a call for mutiny,” she said. “It is but a simple acknowledgement of our responsibilities, along with employers and governments to allow seafarers their right to return home once their contract has finished and the ship safely in harbor.”

No contract extension

Smith said that they have made such recommendation to seafarers if they feel that they are not fit to continue safely performing their duties at the level required of a professional.

“The responsible course of action is to not extend their contracts and request repatriation,” she said, citing Maritime Labor Convention 2006 that provides that the maximum duration of service periods onboard a ship, with the seafarer entitled to repatriation, is to be less than 12 months.

“More than 200,000 seafarers have kept working beyond their contracts during this pandemic, with many onboard for more than 11 months. No one benefits from having physically or mentally fatigued crew operating the world’s fleet for months,” Smith explained.

ITF’s maritime coordinator also denounced the possible banning of any seafarer who would opt to insist their repatriation rights in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic and travel restrictions.

“It is deplorable that some would even talk of blacklisting seafarers for availing themselves of their basic human rights. Blacklisting is illegal and there are consequences for anyone who engages in it,” Smith stressed.

She added ITF stands proud of the impact it gained from countries in implementing crew change protocols. “It is unfortunate, though, that we have to be strong in our language to get governments to take notice of this humanitarian crisis.”

Smith stated that ITF, along with the Joint Negotiating Group and the International Chamber of Shipping, have worked tirelessly to find crew change solutions amid the Covid-19 pandemic. “Our duty will always be to the welfare of the seafarers. The current situation cannot go on,” she said.