The world’s largest international third party shipmanagers with one notable exception – Executive Ship Management – have today pledged not to conduct business with any owner who has a recent history of abandoning crews, in the first step of a Splash campaign to engage key stakeholders and help quash the scourge of ditching seafarers.
The heads of V.Group, Anglo-Eastern Univan, Wallem Group, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, Columbia Marlow, Fleet Management, OSM and Thome Group have all signed up to the initiative with other sectors in shipping also being canvassed to shun shipowners who abandon crews. These seven managers have more than 120,000 seafarers on their books.
With the downturn in shipping having been one of the longest and most severe in living memory many struggling owners have resorted to desperate measures with thousands of seafarers left stranded this decade to fend for themselves in dreadful conditions a long way away from home. While there might be a feeling that finally shipping markets are finally looking up in many sectors, crews are still being left abandoned. Statistics provided during last month’s London International Shipping Week show the issue is not fading away with 37 ships and 400 seafarers abandoned from January 1 this year through to mid-September.
Bjørn Højgaard, one of the eight top shipmanagers to pledge today to turn down business from companies with a recent past of abandoning crew, commented: “It’s a disgrace to see cases where crew lack basic necessities and are tied to a ship for months whilst the situation is being sorted out between the lawyers, creditors and the financiers.”
V.Group’s new CEO, Ian El-Mokadem, in one of his first statements to the media on assuming the new role, said: “We understand the devastating effect abandonment can have not only seafarers but their friends and families too and we’re pleased to support this important pledge.”
Simon Doughty, CEO of the Wallem Group, said his company would not knowingly accept clients with a history of crew abandonment and these owners would not pass Wallem’s pre-engagement risk assessment. Doughty’s comments were echoed by Norbert Aschmann, the outgoing CEO at Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement. Aschmann said his company carries out a very thorough risk assessment before taking any vessel under management.
“This process includes not only a close look at the details and history of the vessel but also of the respective owner and we would not knowingly manage vessels of an owner with a history of abandoning seafarers,” Aschmann stressed.
Anglo-Eastern Univan’s Højgaard said part of the problem of crew abandonment lay with international authorities.
“[M]any flag and port jurisdictions do not facilitate the bankruptcy process quickly and decisively,” he said, explaining: “Seafarers have a maritime lien in the asset on which they are employed, and if only the system would work to speedily liquidate that asset so that they can get paid and repatriated it would be a great step forward to address a situation which is untenable for the quality operators in the shipping industry.”
Kuba Szymanski, the secretary general of InterManager, the international association of third party shipmanagers, told Splash: “InterManager shipmanagers should not accept owners with a history of abandonment. This is far too risky business from both a financial and reputation point of view.”
Despite multiple emails and phone calls, Singapore’s Executive Ship Management has so far declined to take the crew abandonment pledge. Founded by Balaji Singh Teeka in 1998, Executive today has around 200 ships under management. Despite Teeka’s reticence, the company’s top story on its most recent newsletter states: “Good leadership starts with good communication and at Executive Ship Management, this holds true across all levels of employees.”
Splash has been in touch with the world’s leading shipowner organisations, regulators, marine insurers and shipping charities with reports to follow each day this week.