Photo: IMO

IMO raises concerns over alarming number of abandoned seafarers

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has warned of the alarming increase in the number of reports of abandoned seafarers in 2021.

The cases are being reported to the IMO’s and International Labor Organisation’s (ILO) joint database.

According to the database, from 1 January 2020 to 1 April 2021, 111 new cases had been reported, with 85 cases in 2020 and 26 cases in the first quarter of 2021. 

As of 26 July, of this spike of 111 new cases, only 43 have been resolved. 

Around 18 cases reported since 1 January 2020 were related to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has complicated the crew change situation of seafarers. In the previous three months, a further 27 cases were reported, bringing the total number of new cases this year to 53. 

“Each case has impacted real people, who experience stressful, inhumane and unsafe consequences; and their families are equally affected. Such cases necessitate the substantial involvement of the IMO and ILO Secretariats, together with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and others, in order to gain resolution,” IMO noted.

The analysis provided by ITF last month revealed that the number of ship abandonments reported more than doubled from 40 in 2019, to 85 in 2020.

The ITF lodged 60 of the 85 cases which appeared in the ILO abandonment database last year, representing hundreds of seafarers who were owed wages, repatriation flights, or both.

Furthermore, the ITF  inspectors helped seafarers to recover nearly $45 million (N15.6 billion) in owed wages last year while cases of ship abandonments nearly doubled to a record high.

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IMO’s legal committee established the ILO-IMO working group to identify and address seafarers’ issues and the human element. 

Following establishment by ILO, the working group would be expected to meet during 2022.