For seafarers, safety at sea is paramount in view of the recurrent pirates attacks, but a review of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006, is now offering slight relief by ensuring that those held hostage by pirates are paid all their contractual entitlements covering that period of captivity.
Rising from the third meeting of the Special Tripartite Committee of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), in Geneva, the stakeholders agreed to introduce a new amendment to the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006, thus enabling the contractual gap for seafarers who are taken hostage by pirates to be covered.
This is coming as the 11 crew members that were taken hostage by pirates from FWN Rapide off Port Harcourt, Nigeria, on April 21, are said to be alive and together. Manager of the attacked cargo ship said the company has finally managed to establish contact with its crew after days of searching for the missing sailors.
However, the ILO meeting determined that wages and other contractual entitlements would continue to be paid during the entire period of captivity for seafarers who are held captive on or off a ship as a result of an act of piracy or armed robbery against ships.
The amendment would be submitted to the next session of the International Labour Conference for adoption.
This, according to the group would provide the families with the necessary means of survival to partially alleviate the unbelievable psychological distress they undergo whilst their loved ones are held hostages.
Chair of the ITF seafarers’ section, Dave Heindel, said: “This result has been a critical step forward for seafarer protections. With the agreement of the shipowners and member states, we managed to secure an amendment on wage protections, a resolution on shore leave, one on crew abandonment and one for the inland navigation sector, which will provide a way forward for our colleagues working on tugs and inland equipment. Overall, I believe the week was successful for all in the maritime sector,”
During the meeting, the Seafarers Group and the Ship Owners Group also jointly submitted three resolutions to draw the attention and to call for action by the governments on issues like the facilitation of shore leave for seafarers and seafarer abandonment.
The Seafarers Group has also tabled a resolution concerning the decent work in the inland navigation sector, drawing the attention on the importance of internal waterways as a sustainable mode of transport for both of cargo and passengers, calling for the ILO to consider convening a sectoral meeting to discuss the matter.
On the seafarers taken hostage in Port Harcourt, the company assured that: “ForestWave continues doing everything possible to secure the earliest release of its seafarers which remains its absolute priority. The families of those being held are being informed regularly about the situation of their loved ones,”
The Dutch-flagged ship, built in 2005, was on its way from Takoradi, Ghana to Port Harourt, Nigeria when it came under attack from pirates.
Three crewmembers managed to escape pirate hands during the attack. One of the mariners was found two nights ago hiding on board the vessel.
The general cargo ship is currently in a safe position in Nigerian waters.
Worried by continued spate of attack on Nigerian waters, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside, had expressed optimism that the piracy bill would be passed into law thisyear by the National Assembly.
Peterside said the executive bill was fashioned with the strategic intent that the president would send it to the National Assembly to give it the weight and urgency it requires. He added that the law was necessary because Nigeria does not have potent laws to fight piracy.