Shipping will once again be forced to turn to first world crews once world trade recovers from its current difficulties, the leader of Nautilus International has told members at the union’s conference.
Speaking in Amsterdam, general secretary Mark Dickinson argued that shipowners have realised that they have run out of new sources of low-cost labour and will have to make good the long-term decline in recruitment and training in traditional maritime nations. “It’s clear even to the owners that the slump in seaborne trade during the past couple of years has failed to stem the demand for suitably qualified and motivated personnel,” he said.
“When the upturn arrives, there will undoubtedly be further serious questions about the industry’s ability to find sufficient high quality seafarers to serve on increasingly technically advanced tonnage and to meet the increasingly strict regulatory requirements imposed upon shipping.”
Seafarers face unique professional challenges, including the need to spend long periods away from home, the inherent dangers of working in an often hostile environment, changes in technology that have resulted in radical advances in ship design, operation and equipment, and a huge knock-on impact on working practices and crewing levels.
However, progress towards ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention has been pitifully slow, and inaction on the issue of seafarer identification documentation appalling, Mr Dickinson charged.
“The regulator consistently fails the seafarer. Whether it’s permitting ridiculous working hours that would never be tolerated in any other transport sector, or failing to fully and transparently investigate disturbing deaths at sea such as the members on board the cattle carrier Danny F2 , there are far too many cases where justice drops through the legislative loopholes created by multiple jurisdictions.”
Piracy was also rapidly running out of control and copycat attacks are worryingly spreading to other parts of Africa, he added.
No other industry would tolerate the number of attacks and degree of risk faced by its key workers.
“Shipowners and flag states have a duty of care to the seafarers who serve on their ships and it is a damning indictment that many of the world’s biggest registers have dismally failed to contribute to the multinational counterpiracy efforts,” he said.
Mr Dickinson insisted that seafarers must be recruited properly, well trained throughout their career, given decent pay and working conditions and reasonable working hours, access to good recreation and welfare facilities at sea and in port, and provided with a career path that encourages them to stay in the industry.