Galley crew most likely to desert ships

The West of England P&I Club has recently undertaken an analysis of claims involving seafarers who have deserted their vessel over the past 10 years, data that points towards the tough conditions for those working in ship’s galleys. Although these types of claims are not common and nor are they particularly expensive, they can be disruptive to a vessel’s operation, and take up management time to rectify. In some cases, the deserter will turn up shortly after going missing, in others, they have disappeared for a considerable period of time.

The ranks of those that desert a vessel are many and varied, including cadets, crew and officers from all departments, although it is unusual for senior officers to leave a vessel in these circumstances. The only discernible pattern noted by West of England is that catering staff, chief cooks, cooks, stewards and messboys predominate over other departments in the club’s statistics, with chief cooks and cooks in particular featuring regularly in deserter cases.

A review of the club’s claims files show that in terms of nationalities, Vietnamese, Turkish, Chinese and Cuban seafarers predominate. In terms of where seafarers jump ship, Canada, South Korea and Australia are the most popular destinations, followed by the US and Spain.

The number of cases of desertion among ships covered by the club has moved slowly downwards in recent years

“Identifying the circumstances that could lead to the desertion of a seafarer is difficult, however where seafarers voice dissatisfaction with their work, or make an early request for repatriation and / or have family or spouses at a country of call there may well be a risk, in particular if they request their passport as they allegedly need it as identification when ashore, for example, to transfer money or for purchasing a SIM card. However, in numerous cases the seafarer has not taken their passport or shore pass with them when deserting a vessel. Needless to say, if a seafarer is determined to gain entry to a particular country, it will be difficult to prevent such an occurrence,” West of England stated in a circular to clients.

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.


  1. It does not come as a surprise to us at the Apostleship of the Sea that Galley staff are the most likely to desert a ship. Through our regular ship visiting activities in over 300 ports in nearly 60 countries, we have seen that galley staff are least likely to receive shore leave which puts them under immense levels of stress: Often when talking to our chaplains and volunteers, galley crew tell us we are the only people other than crew they have spoken to for a long time.

    To us this report highlights the importance of providing respite and shore leave for all crew, and the cost of not doing so. We hope that ship managers will look carefully at this to see what lessons they can learn from it.

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