Black Sea action to target ‘sea of shame’

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ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton
ITF Acting General Secretary Stephen Cotton
ITF Acting General Secretary Stephen Cotton

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and its affiliated maritime unions in Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine will be exposing substandard working conditions and fighting for improved safety in what they have described as the ‘Black Sea of shame’, from 13th to 15th May.

The Black Sea is one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a seafarer, and is the focus of an intensive ITF campaign to increase safety and drive up standards. This action is the latest move in the campaign, and will involve joint inspection teams made up of ITF inspectors and union activists visiting ships in Black Sea ports.

There are around 2,400 vessels working the Black Sea, many of which are over 20 years of age, and around 800 are over 30 years old. The ITF says the shipping market is characterised by ancient vessels moving low value goods, with rock bottom and unpaid wages where sinkings are not uncommon, and the risk of death and injury is deemed to be part of the job.

Next week’s action will seek to expose such unacceptable conditions and bring them to the attention of the public and governments – to put them on notice that things will have to change with the coming into force on 20th August of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.

ITF Acting General Secretary Steve Cotton said: “Some of the worst ships in the world are to be found plying the Black Sea. Work conditions are often shameful and safety non-existent. The human cost is enormous.”

He continued:  “This event is intended to shine a light on malpractice and make seafarers aware of their rights and how to exercise them under the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.”