Crew changes and non-payment of salaries are the main problems

The Far Eastern Regional Organization of the Seafarers Union of Russia summed up the results of its activities for 2020. During this time, the organization received 7 appeals from ships crews and 18 appeals directly from seafarers. Some crewmembers asked for assistance in repatriation at the end of the contract period, others did not receive wages and compensation for the damage caused to their health. As a result, over the past year more than one million US dollars of unpaid wages and compensation were returned to seafarers and their family members (for comparison, in 2019, 830 thousand dollars were paid). More than 100 seafarers joined the SUR. Thus, the total number of seafarers registered in the FERO SUR at the end of 2020 came up to 5,955. FERO signed collective agreements for 2021-2022 with the shipping companies Nakhodka Tanker, Transoil and Petropavlovsk - Kamchatsky Shipping Company. A lot of work has been done to help seafarers abandoned in foreign ports without paid wages. Thanks to the help of the Investigative Department for Transport, the Transport Prosecutor's offices of Nakhodka and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the crew of the vessel Nikolay Solodchuk was repatriated from the port of Walvis Bay in Namibia. All the seafarers returned to Russia with a fully paid salary in the amount of more than 20 million rubles. Non-payment of wages was also the reason for the detention of the m/v  Port Mei and m/v Sungari by PSC in Nakhodka and Busan, South Korea,- says Nikolai Sukhanov, Chairman of the FERO SUR However not all shipowners willingly resolved the labor disputes, as happened, for example, with the crew of the m/v Astronom.

 The crew applied for assistance in obtaining wages.  After the intervention of the prosecutor's office of the city of Nakhodka, the seafarers received their money. But the shipowner did not agree with this decision and filed a lawsuit insisting the payments were made illegally. The seafarers again asked the union for help, and as a result of work done by our lawyer, the court did not agree with the shipowners claim. Unfortunately, the year 2020 was not without deaths and serious accidents with seafarers, which led to the unfitness for further work at sea. The investigation is ongoing, and the amount of compensation payments will be determined upon their completion. The Far Eastern Transport Prosecutor's Office helps us a lot to protect the legal rights of Russian seafarers, and we even signed a cooperation agreement in June 2020. Thanks to this agreement it made possible to solve the problems of seafarers more effectively as the vessels can be delayed while they are in the Far Eastern ports in order to recover the unpaid wage. The coronavirus pandemic has certainly made very big adjustments to the work of the trade union. The issue of changing crews remains, perhaps, the most important problem of last year and, most likely, will remain the main task of this year. Seafarers remain on board after the completion of their contracts; they are unable to return home as the normal process of crew rotation is disrupted around the world. The situation is aggravated by the lack of access to shore at ports as it was before the pandemic, and what most terrible is the crewmembers are severely restricted in access to medical care. In connection with the epidemic many countries have sharply restricted the possibility of entering and leaving the country, which has greatly affected the regularity of timely changes of ships crews. More than 400 thousand seafarers around the world could not get a replacement after the completion of the contracts and continue to work on ships for more than 6-11 months. In this regard our organization worked hard to resolve issues with shipping companies on the replacement of seafarers. Together with the International Federation of Transport Workers, the Seafarers Union of Russia sought the attention of the governments of the countries to the problem of the crew change crisis. The results of this activity are obvious: thousands of seafarers in this difficult situation managed to return to their families, but many crewmembers still continue to work without a replacement. The pandemic has also led to drastic restrictions on ship visits in the ports of Nakhodka and Vostochny. Instead of the planned 80, the inspectors of the FERO SUR visited only 15 vessels. In case the vessel was not covered by the ITF collective agreement, shipowners were notified of the need to conclude such agreements. Meetings with seafarers, answers to urgent questions, solving problems of seafarers , providing the crewmembers with fresh newspapers and magazines on board the ships- all this helped to strengthen confidence for the  union and the desire of seafarers to join the unions, says the leader of the Far Eastern Regional Organization of the SUR.