The MLC, dubbed the seafarers bill of rights, concerns the right of seafarers to decent conditions of work and rest.
Abdulla Darwish Al Hayyas, director of maritime transport affairs at the country’s Federal Transport Authority told the Seatrade Maritime Middle East Exhibition & Conference in Dubai that the UAE has seen 60 crew abandonment cases involving 300 seafarers in the last couple of years.
Some 95% of the cases have concerned foreign flag ships, owners and seafarers, and usually were the result of ship owners facing financial problems. The seafarers are left without provisions, medical care and fuel to run generators.
Al Hayyas said that with the exception of Panama and India the UAE received no assistance from the flag states in dealing with the cases, and the FTA had felt compelled to get involved on a humanitarian level.
The abandoned vessels were usually tankers and offshore service vessels, and many were substandard, belonging to owners vulnerable to financial problems.
In response to the wave of abandonments, and also a spate of safety incidents, the FTA has introduced a 25 year age restriction on tankers, and all commercial ships must now be fitted with AIS tracking, including dhows. Four ship owners, including India’s Varun Resources Limited, have been banned from calling at UAE ports. Seafarer insurance has also been made compulsory for all ships over 200 gross tonnage entering UAE waters. The insurance has to cover four months of salaries as well as repatriation.
“We are aiming to ratify the convention as soon as we can,” said Al Hayyas. “It is a priority for us.”