The world’s largest ship registry has given the go-ahead to keep seafarers at sea for another three months in a move that has sparked severe concern for the health of those onboard.
The Panama Ship Registry yesterday advised that seafarer contracts can be extended by a further three months with some seafarers now on course to serve a total of 17 months at sea. The extension means some ships will sail with seafarers who will have worked eight months beyond the maximum period specified under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).
Reacting to the news, Mark Dickinson, the general secretary of UK trade union Nautilus International, tweeted that Panamanian-flagged ships with exhausted crews will be unsafe and ought to be detained.
The next results of the quarterly Seafarers Happiness Index are due out soon and the issue of flag states is understood to feature prominently.
“A number of seafarers have raised concerns about the ease with which the MLC and contracts can just be overridden. It seems that the goalposts are not only being moved, the nets are being cut and the ball burst,” a spokesperson for the index told Splash.
With strict travel restrictions in place across the globe following the outbreak of coronavirus seafarers’ employment contracts have been extended month by month this year with estimates that 400,000 crew are needing repatriation and cases of self-harm are reportedly on the rise. The matter came to a head last week when a final deadline – agreed between employers’ groups and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) – elapsed.