11% Rise in Seafarer Abandonments is “Unacceptable” Says ITF

The bow of a vessel as seen from the bridge
Updated Published

There has been an alarming 11% increase in the number of crew abandonment cases in 2023 compared to 2022, according to a recent report by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF). 

132 abandonments were reported by the ITF, which is 13 more cases than in 2022. 

As stipulated by the Maritime Labour Convention 2006, a vessel is considered abandoned if the shipowner fails to cover the cost of a seafarer’s repatriation, severs ties with them, fails to provide maintenance and support, including not paying their contractual wages for at least 2 months. 

Unpaid wages from 129 cases exceeded $12.1 million according to the ITF report, with 1,676 seafarers from abandoned vessels reaching out to the ITF. Indian seafarers were the most affected, with over 400 cases. 

So far, the ITF has managed to secure more than £10.9 million in owed wages from 60 of the abandoned vessels. As more seafarers come forward and cases continue to be resolved, the final number is expected to be more than $12.1 million. 

Steve Trowsdale, ITF Inspectorate Coordinate, noted that the rise in 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 ship owners, enduring the inhuman consequences of a system that compromises their well-being, 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,” said Trowsdale.

Panama, the world’s leading flag state, had the highest number of abandonments with a total of 23 cases across 2023, according to the ITF report. Liberia and the Marshall Islands were not among the 8 flag states with the most abandonments in 2023, despite being the world’s second and third largest flag states.