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ITF flags 'worrying' increase in abandoned ships

24 January 2024

New figures released by the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) show an alarming increase in cases of abandonment during the past year.

A total of 132 abandonments were reported, 13 more cases than in 2022 – representing an increase of 10.92%. 129 of the cases were reported by the ITF, with 1,676 seafarers involved. Vessels flagged in Panama were most frequently abandoned, and Indian seafarers were the most affected nationality.

Owed wages from these 129 cases are in excess of US$12.1 million, and ITF has recovered $10.9 million in owed wages from 60 vessels so far.

Steve Trowsdale, ITF inspectorate coordinator, said: 'The ongoing rise in the number of seafarer abandonments is unacceptable. It is a consequence of an industry where the seafarer can be a throw-away commodity. Seafarers and their families pay the ultimate price for the greed and non-compliance of shipowners, enduring the inhuman consequences of a system that compromises their wellbeing, dignity and basic human rights. ITF inspectors do an incredible job in holding to account those shipowners that try to get away with treating seafarers like some sort of modern-day slaves.'

Under the Maritime Labour Convention, Seafarers are deemed to have been abandoned if the shipowner fails to cover the cost of a seafarer's repatriation; or has left them without the necessary maintenance and support; or has otherwise unilaterally severed ties with them, including their failure to pay the seafarers’ contractual wages for a period of at least two months.

Anyone experiencing abandonment is urged to contact their trade union, or reach out to the ITF Seafarers' Section.