A Week of Actions against the Flags of Convenience starts in the East Asia
A Week of Actions (WoA) against the Flags of Convenience (FOC) starts in the East Asia. Seafarers’ trade union organizations from Russia, Japan, Korea and Taiwan will visit dozens of vessels in their respective ports, in order to check the seafarers’ working conditions, wages and social protection.
Unfortunately, the shipowners quite often have their vessels registered under the “flags of convenience” of the third countries, mainly with the aim of escaping state taxation. The crews working on such vessels, often do not have even minimum social guarantees. The main problem is to find who really owns the vessel, and check the crewmembers’ individual contracts of employment. It is not unusual that the real shipowner and the company which signs contracts are two different companies.
In such cases, it is difficult to find the party which bears the responsibility, and to protect seafarers’ rights. Most often, this is a case with FOC vessels.
According to the Vice President of the Seafarers’ Union of Russia (SUR) Mr. Nikolay Sukhanov, of this WoA against FOC is that the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC-2006), entered into force in the region. This international instrument obliges all shipowners to work in accordance with the Declaration of Compliance to the international labour standards. Non-compliance may lead to the vessel being delayed or arrested in ports.
Earlier, to arrest a vessel where wages were not paid, it was necessary to turn to a court and only after a court decision the vessel could be arrested. Today, this can be done after a crew’s claim to a Port Master.
The MLC-2006 entering into force, the Weeks of Actions against FOCs, the visits to vessels by trade union representatives (over 200 visits!) lead to scraping one and a half hundred “rusty buckets” in the Russian Far East (those there over 30 years old and were dangerous for working on them). Dozens of millions of dollars were reimbursed to seafarers. Over fifty companies ceased to exist when their unseaworthy vessels became out of operation. As a result, we now have less sea accidents, less seafarers wounded or dead.