The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is reporting on yet another hardship case where seafarers are not being paid, and international labor conventions are not observed. They are pointing to the failure of flag states to observe the regulations they adopted and the damage it is doing to the country’s reputation.
The latest instance involves a fairly sketchy ship registered in Tanzania since 2021. According to the ITF, the owner of this vessel has a history of not paying crewmembers but in this case, they are singling out an engineer who has been aboard the ship for 10 years but unpaid for the last seven. They are saying the engineer can barely get off the ship, and in violation of maritime regulations is working without a contract.
“The ITF is extremely concerned about Abdul Naser Saleh,” said Mohamed Arrachedi, ITF Flags of Convenience Network Coordinator for the Arab World and Iran. “He has been unable to support his family. He has been unable even to see some of his children. He has been treated as a slave. He must be paid what he is owed and allowed to return home without delay.”
They are reporting that Saleh, a Syrian national, signed aboard the vessel on September 20, 2021, as an engineer and continues in that role to this day. They contend, “He has been tricked and cajoled by the owners into remaining at his post while other crew members have come and gone.”
During this time, they report that Saleh has rarely been off the ship named Al Maha, a Ro-Ro converted into a cargo ship and operating as a livestock carrier. The 1,600 dwt vessel is 43-years-old and currently owned according to the ITF by Abalkhail Marine Navigation and operates out of Jeddah. Saleh has been able to go ashore to see family when the ship stops in Sudan but he has not seen other family who are in Egypt for the past 10 years.
The ITF reports that over the years other crew members have come and gone from the ship. Six Sudanese seafarers were recently discharged and paid the two-months wages owed to them. However, the ITF says there are currently another nine Syrian seafarers on the ship who have also not been paid since July 2022. They are reporting that other crewmembers are believed to have taken legal action against the company for unpaid wages. According to the ITF under the Maritime Labor Convention, a ship is technically considered abandoned if the crew has not been paid for more than two months.
Intervening on behalf of the seafarers, the ITF reports it has been in contact with both maritime officials in Saudi Arabia and Tanzania. The Saudis have inspected the ship, which is currently docked in Jeddah, and report they are investigating. Tanzania replied to the ITF saying it was looking into the case.
The ITF points out that Tanzania said it was suspending its open registry in January 2018 after a series of incidents involving ships flying its flag. Currently, the ITF reports however that 11 ships registered in Tanzania are banned from various ports under the Paris MoU or along the Atlantic Coast of North America. They also highlight that the Paris MoU has blacklisted Tanzania warning port inspectors that its ships are among the highest risk for failing to meet standards.
The Al Maha, the ITF reports, however, was re-registered in Tanzania for a four-year period as recently as December 2021. The ITF believes that this is a sign that Tanzania is again registering foreign-owned ships. They cite the damage these cases are causing to Tanzania’s reputation and call on the authorities to intervene to enforce the maritime labor convention and protect the rights of the seafarers.