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Criminalisation of seafarers must stop: ITF

Image: Pixabay Prisoner handcuffed
As shipping grapples with making itself attractive to the younger generation to go sea, and retaining those already working on ships, the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) says the criminalisation of seafarers needs to stop.

Speaking at Crew Connect Global in Manila Jacqueline Smith, Maritime Coordinator for the ITF, said that important stories of seafarers being detained for months without charge or arrested on the suspicion of crimes also created challenges to “convince young people that our industry is good”.

Highlighting the treatment of seafarers accused of negligence or criminal offences and detained for long periods often without evens charges being laid, she said: “And it does get my blood boiling that seafarers are the only profession in the world where they are guilty until proven innocent while every other person is innocent until proven guilty.”

The detention of the tanker Heroic Idun and its 26 crew in Equatorial Guinea and then returned to Nigeria where the crew were charged with oil theft. is the latest case to hit the headlines.

“I will say this criminalisation of seafarers needs to stop. We need to call on governments to ensure that seafarers receive the fair treatment that they deserve and have a right to,” Smith stated. Without stopping criminalisation seafarers cannot have confidence in the industry if the most important workers in it are treated as criminals.

Similarly, during the pandemic world leaders relied on seafarers to deliver goods, but at the same time stopped seafarers from going ashore, being repatriated home at the end of their contracts, and even denied life-saving medical care.

“So then why should seafarers have trust when leaders who need their services treat them with such disrespect? Governments need to acknowledge that seafarers were and continue to be key workers and that situations like the pandemic that seafarers need to be prioritised,” she stated.

Crew Connect Global is organised by Informa Markets and taking place in Philippines capital Manila from 22 – 24 November.

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