Yesterday, on the 27th of July, the Commission issued a press release in which it proposed to enshrine into EU Law an agreement between European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) concerning the improvement of the working conditions of seafarers.
EU backs proposal for improved conditions for seafarers
The ETF and the ECSA are recognized as social partners within the shipping industry, representing European workers and employers respectively. In their role as social partners the organisations liaise with the Commission as well as with Heads of the Member State Governments in order to direct policy initiatives. The latest product of this cooperation is the move towards adopting EU legislation which improves the conditions of seafarers working on EU-flagged vessels. In particular the proposal will ensure the protection afforded to seafarers against abandonment in foreign ports as well as their rights to compensation in the event of death or long-term disability due to an occupational injury, illness or hazard.
Abandonment usually occurs when a shipowner decides to discard a vessel that is no longer valuable, and the crew is abandoned along with the vessel. In such circumstances, seafarers working on the abandoned vessel are often owed wages for the last months in which the vessel was in operation. Furthermore they are put in a precarious position since without the shipowner financing the operation food and water supplies as well as fuel quickly run out. While it may sound like a rare occurrence, just in 2016 five merchant vessels were abandoned in EU ports with about 58 seafarers on board.
The Commission’s Proposal seeks to introduce more protection to seafarers who are abandoned and will also improve the mechanisms for compensation provided to such seafarers by making payment of compensation quicker and easier in cases of abandonment as well as in cases of death and long-term disability resulting from injury or illness at work. If the Proposal is followed through the conditions of seafarers would be greatly improved, but also, EU ports authorities would have to deal with fewer problematic cases of abandonment.
 ‘Seafarers: New measures to improve working conditions’ (27 July 2017)