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Saudi offshore owner accused of abandoning crew across multiple vessels

Saudi offshore owner accused of abandoning crew across multiple vessels
Adis Ajdin February 29, 2024

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has revealed multiple concerning reports about withheld pay from seafarers working on eight ships owned by Saudi Arabian marine services contractor Hadi H Al Hammam Establishment.

According to ITF, the company, which lists Saudi Aramco among its clients and was buying brand new ships as recently as 2018, has not paid seafarers for more than five months in some cases.

“Until now I didn’t receive any salary [for 5 months] and I would like to inform you we have shortages of food and fuel all the time, we are suffering all the time… Please I need your support,” one seafarer told ITF.

In fears of escalating problem across the company’s 35 ships ITF said it has added Hadi H Al Hammam Establishment to the Seafarers’ Breach of Rights Index – a new index that lists those who deny and abuse seafarers’ basic human and trade union rights.

“With so many vessels from the same company involved, it seems likely that the owners are in some sort of financial difficulty,” said Steve Trowsdale, the ITF’s inspectorate coordinator, adding: “But it’s not acceptable for its managers to be using seafarers’ pay to juggle their spreadsheets. These are people’s lives they’re playing with, not just the seafarers themselves but their families who depend on their salaries.”

Trowsdale pointed out that under international law – the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, as amended (MLC) – seafarers’ should be paid at least once per month and crews owed two months or more of pay or who are not provided with sufficient food, water and fuel are considered to have been abandoned, which should trigger action by insurers and the ship’s Flag State.

“If you’re not paying your crews, you are already bankrupt, both financially and morally,” said Trowsdale.

Most of Hadi H Al Hammam’s ships are registered in Bahrain – a state which has not ratified the MLC. ITF said its inspectors have informed Bahraini maritime authorities about each case of abandonment, however no practical action has been taken to bring the owners to account.

“Bahrain is responsible for the ships it registers, including for the wages, working conditions in general, and the welfare of the crew. They have the power to hold this company to account, yet they’ve done nothing to help” noted Mohamed Arrachedi, the ITF flags of convenience network coordinator for the Arab World and Iran.

“It’s a signal of Bahrain’s contempt for workers’ rights that it is one of the few countries in the world which has not ratified the MLC,” he added.

The ITF said it has also contacted Gard, which provides financial security for these ships. In cases of abandonment, this type of insurance should pay seafarers up to four months of lost pay and cover the costs of getting them home.

“If Hadi H Al Hammam Establishment does not immediately meet its contractual obligations to its crew, the ITF will seek to activate the financial security covering the vessels, if such cover is present,” Arrachedi explained.