Seafarer abandonment cases on the rise

Seafarer abandonment cases are on the rise once again with the legal committee at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) determined to put fixes in place to help stranded crew.

The IMO’s legal committee met last week during which it was noted that according to the database jointly administered by the IMO and the International Labour Organization there had already been 30 cases of abandonment reported in less than three months of 2022. In calendar year 2021, a record 95 new cases had been reported. Of these cases, only 31 had been resolved. In calendar year 2020, the total number of reported cases was 85. Of these, 43 cases had so far been resolved.

The committee encouraged discussion relating to a solution to the problem of repatriation of abandoned seafarers. Flag states and port states were urged to take further action to ensure the presence of financial security, as required by the Maritime Labour Convention.

Draft guidelines for port state and flag state authorities on how to deal with seafarer abandonment cases, developed by an intersessional correspondence group, were endorsed by the committee.

Last year, three of the world’s largest seafaring nations proposed the establishment of a seafarers’ mutual emergency fund to support abandoned crew.

China, Indonesia, and the Philippines introduced the idea of a mutual emergency fund although it has yet to be endorsed by IMO member states.

In January this year maritime charity Sailors’ Society launched a fund to provide urgent welfare grants for seafarers and their families in desperate need.

The Sea Change Fund provides small emergency payments to seafarers and their dependents matching the grant criteria, to help address immediate needs. Grants are made via application and can assist with a range of pressing welfare needs, including help with vital bills like food and medicine, education costs, or in emergency situations such as cases of abandonment.

Earlier this month the Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea was launched to define and defend the human rights of the global maritime population and those crossing the world’s oceans and seas.

Developed by UK-based NGO Human Rights at Sea (HRAS), the declaration targets human rights abuses stemming from piracy, criminal violence, breaches of maritime labour rights, seafarer abandonment, slavery, trafficking, child labour, and failures in equality and inclusion.

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. Gosh, what a “stunning” story!?

    More shipowners NOT giving a hash about human beings onboard their ships somewhere on the other side of the world, left sitting on some rotting rust bucket they hardly cared about in the first place.

    At least the ship that is abandoned will no longer contribute to the “carbon footprint”, God forbid that from happening, yes?!

    I’m sure most industry leaders will get right on this issue … right after they finish their croissants and tea, reading the latest issue of the Journal of Commerce, while lounging on the back deck of their luxury motor yacht anchored somewhere around the Greek isles.

    Forgive me, Sam. I can’t help myself. I’m actually glad you and Splash24/7 stay on this issue and keep shining the bright light on this dark side of the international shipping industry. Nobody else does it like you do. Nor do they care. If it were NOT for your publication, it’s likely nobody else would even know about any of this. You are often used as a citation in other world publications online and print. So your efforts to address this are being heeded. At least we can be grateful for the effort by others … whatever little it may actually be.

    Keep up the good work.

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