Map details rising incidents of crew abandonment

Cases of crew abandonment are on the rise again, albeit the world has been given far greater transparency on where these despicable acts are taking place thanks to the enterprising work of a British sister and brother.

Cases of desperate shipowners abandoning their vessels and crews last spiked in 2017, but the number of incidents is now heading back up.

There’s a level of institutional acceptance by certain actors

A map has been created showing every abandoned case around the world as tracked by the official International Labour Organisation database on the matter, supplemented by cases that have been reported in the media.

The map was created by Periplous, a research space run by Matthew and Eliza Ader, a brother and sister team from London. The pair carry out open-source investigations into a variety of issues with a current focus on seafarer abandonment.

The Aders created a spreadsheet, dataset, and interactive map detailing active seafarer abandonment cases. The pair were inspired to carry out the project after reading Ian Urbina’s bestseller The Outlaw Ocean, which chronicles crime and survival on the high seas.

The map, which went live in September this year and is updated every month, shows hotspots for crew abandonment at the moment include Sharjah, Istanbul, and Malta.

“We have seen an increase in cases,” Eliza Ader told Splash.

While the numbers have stayed steady around the 35 mark since 2017, this year already has seen 45 active cases as tracked by the ILO plus another four added to the Ader database. Nearly half of these cases were added to the Periplous database in the last month and a half. These new additions include seven tankers belonging to Palmali Shipping, a Turkish-Azerbaijani company registered in Malta whose CEO and founder was arrested in March for connections to the 2016 Turkish coup attempt.

“Seafarer abandonment is a grievous violation of worker’s rights compounded by a lack of attention and what appears to be a level of institutional acceptance by certain actors,” commented Matthew Ader.

Despite efforts by local authorities to stamp out the practice in recent years, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) remains the number one spot for abandoned ships, led by Sharjah. The UAE accounts for 12% of the global total, according to Periplous data.

In terms of nationalities, Indian seafarers have suffered the greatest number of abandonment cases followed by their Ukrainian counterparts.

For more details on individual cases, click on the map below.

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. Excellent initiative and very clear, accessible, user-friendly map.

    Now let’s make sure politicians around the world see it, use it and take some action. Plus it needs to be kept up to date. Unsurprisingly, it’s missing some abandonment cases just from the handful I know of, so it actually presents a rather rosy view of the situation.

    Here’s an idea for another pproject: add to each ship’s AIS details the number of seafarers working beyond their contracted period due to lack of crew change opportunities. But it might need a rather larger team to compile!

    1. Hi Stephen, thank you for your comment! If we could arrange a time to discuss via email or have a conversation about the cases you’re talking about that would be great as I would very much like to add them to the map! Also to discuss the other project idea as this is something Matthew and I have been considering.

      If you’re interested, could you possibly drop me a line on Twitter @eliza_ader or use the email form at the bottom of the website link to get in contact so I know I have the right person? Thank you!

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