The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) has responded positively to a circular issued by the UAE Federal Transport Authority – Land and Maritime, requiring all UAE flagged ships trading internationally and all ships operating in UAE waters to have a contract of insurance to protect seafarers.
This follows a number of high profile cases, including that of the Aegean Princess, whose 11-strong crew were left stranded in Ajman for 17 months after a dispute between shipowner and operator. The crew members recently returned home to Myanmar and India, but are still owned over US$900,000 in back salaries.
David Heindel, chair of the ITF’s seafarers’ section, said: “We are strongly behind the mandate issued by the Federal Transport Authority – Land and Maritime, for the financial protection of seafarers operating in the waters of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Basic rights are being violated on a daily basis by companies operating in this region who not only fail to pay wages, but also fail to provide safe working conditions and enough food and clean water for their seafarers.”
This mandate from the UAE government makes it clear that ship owners must provide financial protection against abandonment, death or injury. All ships flying the flag of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) trading internationally, and all ships operating in UAE waters above 200 gross tons will have to have a financial security system in place for seafarers.
The insurance must cover up to four months’ owed contractual wages and entitlements, according to the circular. The measure, being introduced as the country prepared to ratify the Maritime Labour Convention 2006, is set to enter into force on February 20th this year. Ships not complying with this requirement will not be allowed to anchor or call UAE ports.
Mr. Heindel adds, “This is a huge step forward in a region where, historically, ship owners have been allowed to repeatedly abuse the rights of seafarers. This has to stop and it has to stop now.”