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ITF to target unsafe shipping by four 'worst' flags

20 March 2023

Inspectors from the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), seafarers' unions and French port authorities will be targeting ships flagged to the Cook Islands, Palau, Sierra Leone, and Togo for safety, maintenance and seafarer welfare inspections in the coming eight weeks.

The operation will take place across the Mediterranean Sea. It follows new analysis showing the four flag of convenience registries were responsible for 33 cases of crew abandonment over the past three years. These affecting more than a hundred seafarers, leaving many without pay, food, water, or a way to get home.

The ITF also needed to recover more than US$5.5 million in unpaid wages for seafarers from companies using these four flags.

European Port State Control enforcement agencies issued 5,203 deficiencies or detentions during the same period.

'Substandard shipping in the Mediterranean Sea is driving down seafarers' wages and conditions, its endangering the lives of crew and risking our environment,' ITF Inspectorate Coordinator Steve Trowsdale said.

'These flags take money from shipowners to register ships that other countries wouldn't touch. Many are old vessels and are poorly maintained by their owners. Many of these ships are dangerous and should not be trading.'

'These are now the worst flags operating in the Mediterranean Sea,' said Seddik Berrama, general secretary of Algeria's transport union FNTT and ITF vice president for the Arab World region.

'The world's major Port State Control agency groupings have said these flags are not quality. They have said they are high- or very-high risk. That is unacceptable for crew safety just as it is unacceptable for those of us who rely on a clean sea, like our port communities here in Algeria.'

'Our goal is to expose the substandard shipping examples that we see regularly in our ports. If we are able to spread word of the abuses experienced by crew onboard, which are too often ignored by these flags, then we will send a strong message that substandard shipping is unacceptable.'