Drop-off in labour standards reporting from flag states

The annual Shipping Industry Flag State Performance Table from the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has identified reporting on seafarer wellbeing as a “casualty of the pandemic”.

This year’s table highlights a drop in levels of reporting on the status of national ILO labour standards, including the 2006 Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), underscoring the severe administrative pressures of the pandemic and the ongoing crew change crisis on seafarers, governments and the industry alike. The table’s criterion assessing flag states’ reporting on ILO labour standards, including the MLC, revealed a 6% decrease in flag states successfully meeting their obligations.

Too many governments have not lived up to their commitments under the Maritime Labour Convention

The ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, which compiled the report used by the ICS table, noted that there was a sharp decrease in the number of reports received in relation to previous years. In total, of the 2,004 reports on labour standards requested by the ILO from governments in 2021, only 42.9% of these requests were granted. This is in comparison to a 70.7% rate of reporting received by the ILO the previous year.

The findings were an outlier against a generally strong performance across the board from most flag states, on criteria such as Port State Control (PSC) records and ratification of international conventions. ICS noted that while this trend can be partly explained by administrative pressures brought about by Covid-19, it also serves as a reminder that the hardships suffered by the global workforce throughout this pandemic may not be at the forefront of national administrations’ minds.

Esben Poulsson, chairman of the ICS, told Splash last week: “Too many governments have not lived up to their commitments under the Maritime Labour Convention and that has caused tremendous practical challenges for seafarers, shipowners and managers,” Poulsson said.

Guy Platten, ICS secretary general, commented: “The pandemic has been a challenge for us all and one that flag states have also had to weather. However, the drop off in reporting against ILO labour standards, including the MLC, is further evidence that seafarer wellbeing has been an unintended casualty of the pandemic.

“Hundreds of thousands of seafarers have been trapped on ships for many months beyond their scheduled tours of duty throughout the last two years. This report is a reminder that flag Sstates must keep seafarer wellbeing as a top priority.”

Amongst the 10 largest ships registers by dead weight tonnage, covering more than 75% of the world fleet, none have more than two indicators of potentially negative performance, and five have no negative indicators at all.

The study’s compilers also claim that distinctions between traditional flags and open registers are no longer meaningful, with many open registers amongst the very top performers, alongside several European registers.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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