Talks at the ILO over seafarer minimum wage break down

After two days of talks at the International Labour Organisation (ILO), negotiations on setting a new minimum wage for seafarers over the coming three years have broken down between seafarer unions and shipowners. Shipowners’ offer representing a 3% pay rise for seafarers across the world was rejected.

The figures offered by shipowners for the minimum wage for seafarers for a three-year deal were per month from $641 to $645 for 2022, $645 to $648 for 2023 and $660 for 2024.

Natalie Shaw, director of employment affairs at the International Chamber of Shipping representing shipowners, said she was disappointed a deal had not been struck, but added: “Our door is always open.”

According to the ILO process a failure to strike a deal means that able seafarers will now not be entitled to a rise in the minimum wage for two years.

The seafarers’ unions said today they would prefer to tackle the shipping companies “head-on” to set wages unilaterally rather than risk decades of established ILO practices by agreeing to employers’ demands to ditch objective ILO minimum wage calculations.

“For only the second time in the long history of these negotiations the shipowners and the seafarers have failed to agree a revised minimum wage for seafarers and that’s wholly the fault of the shipowners, who have behaved with such an astounding lack of self-awareness and a lack of respect for the sacrifices of seafarers – especially these past 14 months,” said Mark Dickinson, Seafarers Group spokesperson at the ILO and vice-chair of the seafarers’ section of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

“By initially holding to ransom any kind of pay rise – even a dollar – to their plan to blow up the ILO formula, the shipowners expose their long-term strategy to undermine the social dialogue that has been so critical to the success and stability of this industry for years, and in doing so threaten the cooperation that we’ve seen throughout the global pandemic.”

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. The offer of a mere US$ 4 dollar monthly increase from US$ 641 to US$ 645 from 2022 would not buy a cup of coffee in most of the countries and is an insult to the sacrifices of the seafarers particularly in the pandemic. So much for the crocodile tears of the shipowners who have shouting themselves hoarse in showering praises on the seafarers in the pandemic. “Hypocrisy” at its best.

  2. In continuation of my anger I say the following

    “Seafarers should have got the raise IDEALLY
    But shipowners not concerned REALLY

    Seafarers should have got the raise as a RIGHT
    But shipowners least bothered about their PLIGHT

    Daily, seafarers face the worst FEARS
    And shipowners shed crocodile TEARS

    In Covid, Shipowners acknowledge the seafarers ROLE
    But refuse to upgrade their PAYROLL

  3. It NEVER ceases to amaze me how apathetic Shipowners and Fleet Operators can live with themselves in light of their staggering wealth, while knowing full well, those employed aboard their ships are (frequently) living like animals or slaves.

    For the last year, many have been imprisoned well past their labor contracts, many seafarers have been “abandoned” aboard ships that are left rotting and decaying in some sh*thole port on the other side of the world from it’s owner, and how many times have we read here on the pages of Splash24/7 of those crews not even being paid? For months!!

    It’s 2021 and many shipowners are living lavishly in Europe or Asia, as they enjoy some of the highest profits for their ships they’ve seen in years. Ever! And yet they are treating their employed labor like a pimple on their butt … as an annoyance they wish they could get rid of.

    You are correct Sam, ” … This promises to get ugly – not a good look for rich shipowners to be seen nickel and diming their key workers … ”

    Sadly, I believe they truly do not care about their crews. This we know, given the evidence of how hard they have worked this past year at getting their crews off their ships safely and sent home as required by their “contractual agreement”. Foreign flag shipowners truly live up to their horrid, self-serving reputations as apathetic rich A-holes, given the history of their behavior and treatment of their crews.

    1. Your comment resonates the feelings of the seafarers. While the skies have been quite, the roads deserted, it was only and only the ships in the high seas which were keeping the trade alive thanks to the zeal, passion and commitment of the seafarers. The breakdown of the talks by the shipowners offer of a pittance will make the seafarers feel that their sacrifices has gone in vain…

      1. Only Seafarers from developing countries treated like shit. No pension, no benefits. Even the bigger companies like container ship giants keep reducing salaries. The cheap labor tag comes with lot social injustice and partiality.
        Examination taken by authorities in one of the leading country for supplying manpower, are close to exams needed to go to mars. Every year there is new courses to fill up the pockets of training institutes.

      2. Your good comments notwithstanding, I am sure you are not Abdulgani Serang

        1. Hi Pikeman,
          My email address in nusi@nusi.org.in and you can send me a message and I will invite you to a dinner to prove that it’s me…..rgds
          Abdulgani Serang

  4. It is really terrible – a $4 increase .
    I suggest that the increase should b at least $250 per year.
    Unbelieveable that u treat seamen like this by offering not even loose change, insult is not the word !!

  5. Capt Paperwork

    This is nothing new. Every American whose great grandparents immigrated from Europe would discover that they came in search of a job… any job …..and were thoroughly exploited.

    Australian immigrants were in even worse shape.

    Things aren’t that bad for seafarers. These turned bad only after Covid 19.

  6. The Chamber of Shipping has destroyed so many welfare benefits for seafarers over the years. It seems their remit is to damage shipping even for their own ship owners. They promote the good and bad ship owners. The good ship owners would be better off leaving the chamber. They say there is no money in shipping for wages and welfare yet 6 days in the Suez Canal cost $1bn?

    While the ‘pandemic crisis’ has been going on and some owners have not been doing crew changes what has happened to all the money that would have been spent on doing the changes? 400,000 seafarers @ an average of $1000 a change is a lot of money. Good luck to the Unions tackling the owners directly.

Back to top button