Flags of convenience or FOC is a business practice under which ship’s owners register their ships in a nation that they do not necessarily belong to. This practice especially helps them evade rules and regulations of their home nation, sometimes for not so good reasons.
The direct impact of this practice occurs on the seafarers who ultimately have to work on such vessels. Here are some dangers of FOC that all seafarers must absolutely be aware of.
1. Working conditions
FOC vessels have been reported to have much lower standards of working conditions as compared to other vessels. This is mainly due to lesser regulation of such vessels. With ships functioning under FOC, there is always a dispute of nation of jurisdiction and rules that apply.
This means much lower standards are likely to be maintained on such vessels. Seafarers always run the risk of having to work under extremely dangerous conditions without proper insurance and compensation for the same.
2. Basic rights
The most important of the drawbacks of FOC is that it does not necessitate a seafarer’s basic rights. Right to form or join trade unions, demand suitable pay and working conditions, pay scales etc that come under the seafarers rights may not be available on ships functioning under Flag of Convenience.
This can make working on such ships much more dangerous and lesser worth the effort that goes into a seafaring job.
3. Regulation of legal trade
FOC vessels run under jurisdiction of the nation of ship’s registration. However, the many manipulations that can be done in records and legal documents can make it extremely easy for such ships to be involved in illegal trade. FOC vessels have been reported to be involved in everything from drug smuggling to human trafficking.
Seafarers maybe unknowingly dragged into such a business, while doing their job on such a ship. Under such circumstances and with lack of basic rights, a seafarer runs just as high risk of being caught for a crime he wasn’t even a part of. This is one of the reasons that make awareness about FOC extremely crucial in this industry.
4. Pay scale
Depending on the nation of ship’s registration, the rules followed on a FOC vessel can vary greatly. These can include things like pay scale of ship’s crew. In name of rules of nation of flag of the ship, the ship owners can dupe their employees for their rightful salary. Many cases have been reported where seafarers weren’t paid their rightful salary or at the required time. Under both circumstances, it is only the employee that suffers, with no means to find any solution whatsoever.
5. Insufficient compensation
A grave violation of seafarers rights would be to not offer him due compensation in case of an unfortunate accident while on board. Working under extremely dangerous conditions of ships, even more so on ships which lack necessary regulation for the same means these mariners always run a risk of an accident. In case of such an accident, a vessel running under flag of Convenience may refuse to pay the necessary compensation to the mariner and/or his family.
Cases of mariners having been gravely injured while on board of such ships and not having received due compensations have come forth. It is important to guard mariners against such drawbacks of FOC.
6. Improper work schedule
A mariner may not be allowed the necessary rest period between consecutive shipping assignments as per the standard guidelines.
These guidelines are set taking into view the health of mariner from continuous exposure to sea conditions. Inability to do so can harm the mariners’ health in long term. But this right may be denied to workers of FOC vessels.
7. Future prospects
Seafarers on FOC vessels are always in kind of an uncertain area, where they never know what they might be thrown into next. Mostly, they have no major protection against any injustice being done to them. However, seeking some justice can also prove injurious to a seafarer’s marine career in some cases.
Working on an FOC vessel can endanger their career in so many ways- illness, physical injury, mental instability, damaged work record etc. All these can result into premature termination of a mariner from this career. And this is probably the worst of the dangers that every seafarer faces while working on FOC vessels.
It is important to note that Flag of convenience is not necessarily a bad thing. But it invariably leads to outcomes that have not so good implications. Seafarers, no doubt, always run all these risks, no matter where they work. But in cases like these, risks are augmented and securities diminished. This is when it’s important to weigh both the sides. Being aware of dangers of working on such a vessel is the only way mariners can comprehend the real risk they face.