The ongoing case of the Panama-flagged, Turkish owned, MV ALI BEY (IMO 9070515) vessel arrested in Constanta Port, Romania and abandoned since 30 November 2020 has seen the Panama Maritime Authority (PMA) acknowledge a misquotation of ITF regional co-ordinator, Mohamed Arrachedi, resulting in corrections and amendments to the ILO database. Had the misquote not been spotted the four Syrian seafarers abandoned onboard for eight months would have been further disadvantaged more than they already are.
As reported by Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) on 17 July, the PMA submission to the ILO database (Case No. 00490) stated:
“Govt. of Panama (14 July 2021)
From Panama Maritime Authority
According to email dated Jan 12, 2021, the crews on board were going to be repatriated but their payment will remain hold.
June 4 2021, We received confirmation from the ITF inspector, Mohamed Arrachedi that the wages owned had been paid and that they were awaiting the repatriation of the crew.”
HRAS highlighted to ITF the public statement and its concern about the associated disadvantage of the remaining Syrian seafarers. This resulted in an immediate written response from ITF to the ILO on 17 July to correct the facts.
PMA wrote to HRAS late evening 16 July 21 highlighting their mistake, acknowledging responsibility, and that they “apologize for any inconveniences”.
The data based has now been updated and at the time of writing states:
“ITF (16 July 2021)
From ITF Inspector in Romania
I can confirm that owner done a lot of abuses against the crew in order to negotiate their rights less than they owed, (master video attached), P&I confirmed this abandonment according with MLC 2006 and paid compensation according with the convention, part of crew got some part of their wages and after many abuses (missing food, missing fuel, sometime rooms not heated during winter time, bad living conditions on board the vessel in generally, threatened to be blacklisted, with court and with police , with force evacuation, etc etc. Now, on board there are 4 seafarers unpaid from many months, owner owes them about 175.000 USD and in this conditions, owner take court action against master, against me as the person who declared to the flag, P&I and to ILO, IMO that crew are in area of abandonment according with MLC 2006, Standard 2.5.2 , and claimed huge amount of money. More than this, governmental organization, PSC answer to you that they arrest the vessel because crew not been paid from 6 months but they have no official documents that vessel is abandoned ….. no comment.”
“Govt. of Panama (16 July 2021)
From Panama Maritime Authority
The complaint consists of the crew requesting owed wages since more than a year, two years ago. Also according to the information we received they need provisions on board. No reply at all from the parties involved. Until now the status has not changed.”
The continued exploitation of the four-man Syrian crew has not been helped by the mistake recorded on the ILO database as a publicly available and publicly accessible record. As reported to both ITF and HRAS, the alleged threats by the owner towards the crew and the position of crew subjugation are thereby reinforced by a lack of accuracy in case reporting be it mistaken, or negligent.
HRAS identifies three key lessons from this incident.
Responsibility for accurate reporting. It is critical for all cases of abandoned seafarers that submissions to the ILO Abandonment Database are double-checked and accurate in support of achieving expedited justice for victims.
Accountability for mistakes. All mistakes must be acknowledged and amendments actioned immediately. Apologies for distress to any victims must also be made, without exception.
Flag State responsibility. Flag States must always take a direct interest and be engaged in every case of abandonment onboard all vessels registered with the flag administration reflecting established international maritime law. There is no room for any abdication of responsibility.
HRAS has requested engagement with the PMA on the following points and awaits a response.
- “We would like to know what the Panamanian flag State authorities are doing to assist this remaining four-man Syrian crew under your flag and established jurisdictional protection under international maritime law?”
- “Have you offered financial and/or legal support to the seafarers and their families? If so, what does this comprise, and how much?”
- “Have you been officially and legally liaising with the Romanian Government and relevant PSC authorities to protect these seafarers’ rights? If so, what is the current situation?”
The issue of inaccurate reporting in abandonment cases may seem a small matter from the confines of an office environment, but for seafarers who have been forced to remain onboard vessels beyond their contracts, without receipt of the pay they have fairly earned, and without access to their families, the issue is all consuming. It is therefore imperative that all public information in such cases is double-checked, accurate, and all mistakes rectified immediately with due apologies to the victims.
HRAS recognises the immediate response, acknowledgement, and the correction by the Panama Maritime Authority.