With the introduction of Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) in 2013, seafarers around the world can now expect that their “basic rights” are taken care of and they are subjected to fair treatment under all circumstances.
Apart from these important rights, seafarers want at least a few more things to change in the year 2014. Several maritime organizations around the world have raised concerns regarding these issues which are bothering mariners for quite sometime now. Though a few initial steps have already been taken towards solving these issues, a lot needs to be done for providing a solution in the year 2014.
Five of the most important maritime issues that needs to be attended in the year 2014 are:
1. Protection From Somali Pirates
Though the piracy incidents along the coast of Somalia reduced in the year 2013, there was a major increase in number of pirate attacks along the coast of West Africa. While the piracy at sea fell to lowest level in seven years in 2013, some experts said that piracy can never be conquered. As the West Africa region become a piracy hotspot, European Union not only announced to boost the anti-piracy efforts but the EUNAVFOR Operation Atlanta was also extended until 2016, ensuring greater protection to seafarers.
One of the hottest topic of debate in the industry was the employment of Armed Guards on board ships to fight pirates. While some said that armed guards can be dangerous, countries such as India, France, Japan and few others allowed employment of armed guards on board ships to ensure security of their seamen.
In spite of all the steps that are taken until now, pirate attacks still occur in high risk areas. Seafarers transiting High Risk Areas thus expect that stringent security measures are taken this year in order to ensure protection from pirates.
2. Adequate Shore Leave
Shore leave is the right of every seafarer but lately these facility has been stripped off at several ports around the world because of security and immigration issues. Several maritime organizations understand the importance of shore leave for seafarers and have urged ports around the world to reconsider their shore leave policy. The International Shipping Federation (ISF), which represents maritime employers globally, has called on port states to facilitate the right of seafarers to shore leave, in line with governments’ international treaty obligations, by proposing a new pragmatic approach to visa requirements.
Seafarers’ welfare organizations such as The Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) are also asking port workers, especially in US, to raise the issue of shore leave, asking authorities to grant visas to seafarers. Moreover, India has also issued a circular stating that all Indian ports are required to include in their Port Facility Security Plans the necessary procedures to facilitate shore leave of seafarers visiting their ports.
Considering the increase in awareness regarding the issue of shore leave around the world, seafarers expect a concrete solution or at least some form of relief as far as shore leaves are concerned.
3. Reduced Paperwork / Admin Burden
As the number of maritime regulations increase, the amount of paperwork and admin jobs that are to be handled by seafarers is also increasing. Almost all seafarers complain about the amount of admin jobs they have to carry out on board ships, neglecting more important jobs on board ships. According to a study by Danish Maritime Authority, seafarers feel that they spend too much time on tasks they consider to be an administrative burden.
Considering the increased amount of paperwork that is to be carried by seafarers, DMA points out there is scope for developing “work smart, easy-to-use” digital solutions to reduce paperwork and time consuming manual workflows, particularly in relation to port and pre-arrival procedures. The organization also recommends a revived focus on seamanship and safety culture with a view to reducing the number of procedures and burdens and advises of a potential for increased co-operation and dialogue between stakeholders in all areas of the maritime sector.
The increasing paperwork is a serious problem for seafarers, who expect a solution to the problem this year.
4. Improved Communication Facilities
In the time when people around the world are easily connected through internet, seafarers are the only people who are finding it difficult to stay connected to their loved ones and rest of the world. A decent internet connection and communication facilities is desired by seafarers around the world. Though a number of shipping companies are now offering internet connection to their crew, there is lack of network consistency and major restrictions when the ship is at sea.
Internet connection is so desperately required by the seafarers that in a survey conducted, more than 70% of the seafarers were ready to pay for the internet if they were given an option. Seafarers also expect that ports have wifi internet connections (free or paid) which would at least help them to connect to their friends and family whenever their ship is berthed. Facilities such as those provided by Port of Antwerp is also need of the moment.
Seafarers all around the world are expecting solutions for cheaper and affordable means of communication both at sea and at ports.
5. Adequate Rest
Work at sea never stops. Seafarers are sometimes required to work continuously for hours together, especially during emergencies, which is then often followed by watch-keeping. Such round-the-clock working leads to fatigue and reduction in cognitive ability, which is the root cause of accidents on board ships.
The introduction of MLC 2006 is expected to address this issue, ensuring that seafarers get enough time to recharge themselves. Such rest period should be complimented by shore leave facilities which is talked about in one of the above topics. It is also expected that the issue of rest hour fudging will also be solved as a result of MLC.
Projects such as MARTHA has been introduced to explore ways to reduce fatigue and associated risks, on board vessels. Maritime organizations around the world are working towards solving the issue of seafarers’ fatigue and its adverse effects.
Seafarers expect that they get sufficient rest hours on board ships to ensure safe and secure voyage.
However, these are not all. Though the issues mentioned here are some of the most important ones which need attention in 2014, problems such as unemployment, lower wages, and shorter contract periods also need due consideration.
Do you think there is any other maritime issue that needs to be attended at the earliest? Let us know in the comments below.
Raunek Kantharia is a marine engineer turned maritime writer and entrepreneur. After a brief stint at the sea, he founded Marine Insight in 2010. Apart from managing Marine Insight, he also writes for a number of maritime magazines and websites.