Ships’ crews need to be treated with more dignity and respect, V.Ships president Roberto Giorgi has warned.
Although the industry has the maritime labour convention to improve conditions for those who pursue careers at sea, it cannot take this just as a piece of legislation, the shipmanagement firm boss says.
Mr Giorgi, a long-time campaigner for better conditions for seafarers, made the comments while discussing with Lloyd’s List the growing need to recruit more people to go to sea.
Despite some headway with the MLC , he says, the industry needs to treat crew with more respect and to enable seafarers to understand the important role they play and the opportunities available to them across the maritime sector.
National shipowners’ associations should do more to lobby and advertise the opportunities that a career at sea can bring, he says, even though not all countries can attract seafarers, as not all offer competitive salaries.
Mr Giorgi also questions why the industry is not more vocal about false imprisonment of officers, arguing that there is a general unwillingness to support crew that are abandoned or falsely imprisoned.
He cites the ability of a unified industry voice, which he helped to rally, to persuade South Korea to release the officers of Hebei Spirit as one of the very few examples of success. “Crews still need to see the industry defend their rights,” he said.
Not to do so will continue to set a bad example, with repercussions as youngsters decide not go to sea, reducing the industry’s ability to meet future demand for seafarers.
Demand for seafarers will climb dramatically as improving global economic conditions lead to more seaborne freight and more tonnage on the water. There is a lot of talk about vessel automation, but this will happen in the distant future.
Demand for seafarers will increase long before unmanned ships become a reality. Yet the belief that seafarers are an economic burden on shipowners seems to continue.
This has led to complaints that an industry that has little time to address its manpower needs, or to tackle requirements in salaries and working conditions, will struggle to persuade young seafarers to stay in the industry.
Supporting a young, motivated, skilled workforce is part of the V.Ships drive for sustainability, he says.
He wants to see an end to criminalisation of seafarers and mistreatment of crew in certain ports.
Mr Giorgi cites cases where seafarers from developing countries trying to join a ship are left to their own devices to try to work their way through other countries’ immigration systems.
He calls for a special lane for crews with the right documentation to ease their passage through immigration and on to their vessels, and when they are repatriated, having served their contracts. He would like to see a similar system to that allowing airline crews and pilots to board their planes quickly and efficiently.
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