A master of the Panamanian-flagged Stas hasn't still recovered his wage, although the Frunzensky District Court in Vladivostok had resolved to pay him more than $15,000 as a wage debt on October, 12, 2017. Due to a prolonged conflict, he has asked the SUR FERO for help in returning the debt today.
The captain told he sought a job in Vladivostok-based Ardis. He was directed to the crewing agency Interfos, which allegedly specialized on seafarers' employment on ships under foreign flags. The agency offered him to sign an employment agreement with the Cyprus-based Cotris Limited. The M/V Stas was chartered by Cotris Limited in accordance with a bareboat agreement. But under an employment service contract the crewing agency hasn't any responsibilities for the wage payments.
His captain's duties on M/V Stas, performed by him from February to July 2017, hasn't been paid. The shipping company Ardis passed him only a wage debt certificate and recommended to address a complaint into Cotris. However the seafarer filed the claim into the Vladivostok court. According to the court's decision, the Cyprus company is obliged to cover the wage arrears. But instead of money, he has got the enforcement order which he still doesn't know how to apply.
“Such scheme of fraud exists very long,” Nikolai Sukhanov, the chairman at the Far Eastern Regional Organization of the Seafarers' Union of Russia (SUR FERO), explains. “A ship is purchased by a shipping company. After getting the appropriate documents, it passes the vessel into a bareboat charter. But in fact this company exists on paper only. It isn't clear, who is responsible for the wage payment. It is an intentional trick, because the activities of a bareboat shipowner isn't covered by the Russian legislation and our seafarers wouldn't have possibility to return their money.”
It should be noted that in line with the amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention (LMC), the shipowners are obliged to insure the seafarers' wages. If an employer accumulates the wage debts, an insurance company has to cover the debts, but this sum is limited by four-month period. If we say about the situation with the master of Stas, the SUR FERO has asked him to show the copies of the Ingosstrakh's insurance certificates, which Stas has. It is possible that we will be able to resolve the issue around the wage debt subsequently.
The SUR points out that in view of continued cases of seafarers' fraud, the special attention should be paid to a contract and its signing, and also clarify whether a crewing agency has its office in Russia.
“Unfortunately, the seafarers too often face with violation of their rights. The union membership is the best way to protect himself/herself and, as the result, to secure a social protection and legal support even in the most difficult situations,” Nikolai Sukhanov believes.