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Seafarer Abandonment Is on the Rise

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

March 16, 2023

© Deborah Benbrook / Adobe Stock

© Deborah Benbrook / Adobe Stock

In troubling news for the maritime sector, new data from RightShip shows reported rates of seafarer abandonment is on the rise with no signs of slowing down.

U.K.-based RightShip, which provides an online safety and environmental risk management system for the global maritime industry, said 9,925 seafarers have been cast adrift over the last 20-years, including 1,682 impacted by 103 vessels marked as abandoned at the close of 2022.

According to the International Maritime Organization's (IMO’s) definition, abandonment occurs when a shipowner is unable to cover the cost of a seafarer’s repatriation and fails to pay wages for at least two months, has left seafarers without maintenance and support, or otherwise severs ties with the crew. In cases of sudden abandonment, these people are left to suffer without food, water, supplies, medicine and the ability to reach shore to contact anyone.

Cases of reported abandonment have been on the rise for five consecutive years, with other notable peaks forced by the 2009 financial crash and the 2017 MLC convention. Most recently the pandemic and conflict induced abandonments have resulted in a steady uptick, with cases recorded in countries across all continents, led by the UAE, Spain and Turkey.

(Image: RightShip)

Abandonment case disputes, as revealed by RightShip in February 2023, are still causing high levels of financial hardship, with the latest data showing that over the last 20-years unpaid monies to abandoned seafarers adds up to $40 million.  

Steen Lund, CEO, RightShip, said, “When abandoned on vessels, seafarers are left alone to fend for themselves while corporations avoid their responsibilities. When those who destroy the lives of seafarers also employ them, it is, in all senses, deeply troubling. However, as regulators and RightShip begin to clamp down on due diligence at all points in the supply chain, there will be catastrophic financial implications for those who partner with irreputable ship managers.”

The rise in ESG compliance regulations mean that charterers, bankers and financiers are increasingly being asked to evidence due diligence when it comes to selecting their partners, with open abandonment cases reflecting poorly on ship owners and managers, RightShip said.

“We already identify vessels guilty of abandonment linked to a company in the RightShip Platform. We cannot and will not recommend them to our customers for voyages and we mark them unacceptable during the vetting process. Operators who have little regard for the welfare and human rights of their crew must not be allowed to continue to operate,” Steen said. “But we know we can do more, and so can the more than 1,000 ship management companies that have not declared their hand by refraining from completing the Crew Welfare Self-Assessment.”

RightShip said its assessment encourages organizations to engage with and improve crew welfare and – in conjunction with crew abandonment data in the RightShip Platform – allows charterers to select vessel owners and managers which have made public commitments to high crew welfare standards. As of early 2023, RightShip received Crew Welfare Self Assessments from 226 DOC (Document of Compliance) holders covering over 6,150 vessels.

“When seafarer abandonment still happens, it is largely down to the ruthlessness of capitalism. Wanting to eliminate the issue means putting in place your best management practices to stop it,” Steen said.

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