ITF South Asia Week of Action ends with more gains for seafarers

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Mumbai harbour
Mumbai harbour

A weeklong (8th to 12th October) campaign, launched this year by ports and seafarers unions in selected port cities of India against merchant ships flying flags of convenience (FOC) ended Friday with substantial gains accruing to the ship crews.

The first of the two staggered Weeks of Actions, this time covering only selected Indian ports saw 43 ship inspections and the signing of 12 ITF acceptable agreements by local inspectors and through Unions in countries of beneficial ownership as a result of action taken in Indian ports.

In Kandla, sustained pressure on Liberian flagged vessel Ras Ghumays-1 ultimately led its UAE owners to agree to sign up seven of their vessels with the ITF union in the Philippines. On another Belize flagged FOC vessel Arwad Queen, the Lebanese owners have agreed to cover their vessel with an agreement. Meanwhile the dockers union throughout the week worked hard to help the 22 Syrian crew on board mv Oriental Queen-VI. The Syrian owners of the vessel have not paid its crew to the tune of $277,000 and there is no diesel onboard plunging it in complete darkness and failure of the onboard communications facility.  

At Mumbai port, the second success came when action on Panama flagged Golden Crest owned in Japan, chartered by a Korean company with Myanmar and Bangladesh mixed crew on board was covered by an ITF agreement. Agreement negotiations for another vessel of the same company Golden Dominance are on. It was also for the first time that ITF Inspection teams were successful in inspecting vessels at the JNPT port and in particular the private terminals owned by Maersk (GTI) and Dubai Ports World (NSICT). A total of four vessels were inspected and onboard TS Jakarta the Captain was very uncooperative. It was only after hectic negotiations that the ITF team was allowed to inspect the vessel. 

In Visakhapatnam, the ITF Union team succeeded in getting the Japanese owner of Panama flagged mv Sammy to sign an ITF acceptable wage agreement for the Filipino crew onboard. The Inspection team also found the Bangladeshi owned, Panama flagged Fatahur Rahman to be a sub standard ship and alerted the Port State Control to detain the vessel from moving out of the port.

In Tuticorin, hectic negotiations are still going on to sign an ITF acceptable agreement on the Marshall Islands registered, Greek company owned Sky Globe.

In New Mangalore where vessel traffic this week was low, the Unions have offered to again join the second week of action due in December and continue ITF campaign activities with full fervour. 

Commenting on the hectic activities during the week, Sangam Tripathy, Assistant Regional Secretary ITF Asia/Pacific region said, “The Indian inspectors/contacts and the port and seafarers Unions in a display of strong solidarity have once again made it clear that flag of convenience (FOC) ships visiting our ports cannot escape action – hiding behind walls of secrecy created by dubious ownership structures and hiring of cheap and exploited crews without decent rights’’.