Three of the world’s largest seafaring nations are proposing the establishment of a seafarers’ mutual emergency fund to support abandoned crew.
China, Indonesia, and the Philippines have introduced the idea of a mutual emergency fund at the recently held International Maritime Organization (IMO) legal committee as abandonment cases are heading for another record.
The IMO’s legal committee has reported a rise in the number of seafarer abandonment cases since the start of the pandemic last year. Between January 2020 and April this year, the ILO/IMO joint database on abandonment recorded 111 new cases. 85 of these cases occurred last year and the balance of 26 cases occurred in Q1 of 2021. According to the IMO, just 46 have been resolved since, and 27 more have been reported since April. More than 1,300 seafarers were affected.
Abandonment takes place when owners stop paying wages for at least two months, don’t cover the cost of repatriation, or when they leave the seafarer without maintenance and support.
The IMO is looking to establish practical guidelines for flag and port states on how to deal with abandonments in order to quickly resolve such cases.
The details of how the emergency fund would work should be clear for consideration at the next legal meeting in March 2022. It was said that the fund should only cover repatriation and not outstanding wages and that it should also not present unfair advantages for those flag states not fulfilling their obligations.