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ITF in Canada shows seafarers the way home

ITF in Canada shows seafarers the way home
Sam Chambers July 13, 2020

Seafarers must speak up and then they can be repatriated, argues a senior name within the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) today.

Peter Lahay, the national coordinator for the ITF in Canada, has been defending seafarers rights for 30 years, and is adamant that stranded crew must do more to make their voices heard and get home.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but seafarers themselves are allowing themselves to be victimised. Seafarers, you have human rights, if you are sailing through through countries that adhere to the rule of law please use your rights. Your basic human rights and your rights under MLC. Give notice that you wish to leave the ship. Refuse to sail on. If you are over a year and refuse to continue we will get you off,” Lahay told Splash, adding: “If all you do to help yourself is set up a fake Facebook account to cry out from your dark cabin the owners and governments will not listen.”

Port State Control is hiding behind a “regulatory smoke screen of excuses”, Lahay said, while the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has not been capable of enforcing crew change.

Lahay’s comments have sparked considerable debate online about how to avoid crews being blacklisted and also how, once off ship, to send them home.

Questioning the ITF stance on social media, former seafarer John Nicholson, now a senior marine surveyor with Idwal, highlighted the fear that crewing agencies have struck into seafarers.

“Crewing agencies blacklist seafarers who dare go against their commands. Crews are scared of not getting jobs in the future if they try and get off their vessels,” Nicholson stated.

Another former seafarer commented via Facebook: “Majority of seafarers are employed basis short term garbage contract and whilst it offers them some protection for duration of such contracts , such protection is null and void upon contract completion. Hence the future reemployment depends on the whim or good will of crewing departments, who may find a zillion excuses not to reemploy those whom they may label and/or consider as trouble makers. One can not fight back on legal grounds as on leave there is no legal, contractual relation between an employer and employee.”

ITF general secretary Steve Cotton responded to seafarer blacklisting concerns last month in an interview with Splash, saying his organisation has had a system in place for many years with responsible owners to filter crew back to work.

Lahay went on to explain how crew that do choose to down tools can get home.

Crew from a vessel Lahay has been monitoring had been asking for a month to leave the ship. They got in touch with Lahay on June 22.

Lahay informed the shipping company and along with inspectors in Quebec and Halifax set about getting the Ukrainian and Indians off. The owners then tried and failed to get visas for joining crew from labour supply countries.

The crew grew increasingly frustrated and before leaving Quebec City for Lewisporte, Newfoundland they gave seven days notice to down tools and leave without relievers if necessary.

ITF told the company they could get relievers from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania or Poland, nationalities that do not need visas to enter Canada and join a ship. The company subsequently found seven Romanian relievers.

“These men are going to go home because they worked with us. They are going home because they stood on their feet,” Lahay said.

Last week’s keenly anticipated global crew change summit convened by the UK has been attacked today as meaningless by Frank Coles, the head of Hong Kong-based Wallem Group.

“Maritime key workers should bypass the visa restrictions, a discharge book should be accepted by all, special seafarers’ flights should be made available in key places to key ports. We need a global logistics operation that should be executed by key governments to preserve world trade, human rights and mental welfare,” Coles wrote in a widely read contribution on this site.