The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and Nautilus International are asking for authorities at ports under the Paris MoU, which covers western and southern Europe, to detain ships where crew have exceeded the maximum time they can work on board.
ITF estimates that some 400,000 seafarers are currently trapped aboard their ships by the crew change crisis. These seafarers, many of whom have been aboard for well over the 11-month maximum period allowed under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), face increasing pressure and hardship.
The call follows a recent successful action in Australia, where ITF officials assisted the Australian Maritime Safety Authority in stopping a Japanese-owned car import vessel from leaving the Port of Melbourne. The ship was detained after it was discovered that several seafarers aboard had worked in excess of the 11-month MLC maximum and the 14-month Australian limit.
Commenting on the case, ITF Australia Coordinator Dean Summers said it was a 'wakeup call' for the international shipping industry: 'If you have over-contract seafarers – if you have crew who have done their time and are no longer willing or safe to operate your vessel – the ITF, our affiliates, and the Australian authorities will arrest and detain your ship until you right these wrongs, no matter the cost to you or your cargo owner.'
The crew change situation has been worsened by the failure of many authorities to recognise seafarers as key workers and the unwillingness of charterers, ship owners, manning agencies and other parties to put their legal obligations to mariners ahead of business concerns.
'Seafarers have gone above and beyond the call of duty. Many are suffering from serious fatigue and stress, which is no surprise when they have been away from home for more than a year in violation of their rights under the MLC,' Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said.
'Repatriating crew is not a luxury, it is an obligation that ship owners and charterers need to respect. Authorities in Europe should follow the example of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to ensure that they are doing so.'