MV Liberty Prrudencia: a gross failure in protecting seafarers’ rights

Original Lloyds List & The Maritime Executive OP-ED

I have great respect for the mental and physical tenacity of the remaining 13 Indian crew of the Liberty Prrudencia. At the time of writing, they remain effectively abandoned by the owners in Zhoushan, China, having been paid just one month’s wages in six months, but to date have steadfastly refused to bow down to pressure exerted to get them to leave their vessel.

From papers supplied in March, the outstanding wage bill was in excess of $148,000.

The list of those to whom the crew have reached out for support is significant — the Hong Kong flag, DG Shipping India, Indian Consulate, Lloyds Register, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network, Seafarers Rights International, the International Labour Organisation, the International Maritime Organization, and many others. To be precise, 33 emailed recipients, including Human Rights at Sea, at the last count, yet there remains a deafening silence from some quarters and, certainly, there has been little public outcry or overt public support for these seafarers.

Why?

Fact — had it not been for HRAS’s exposure of the issue, with express permission and disclosure from the crew, the wider industry and public would most probably have been none the wiser to their plight. At least in the background we reassuringly know that ITF is working with the crew.

With such public knowledge there should be strong condemnation from the international seafaring community, not an embarrassing silence reinforcing the confidence of those who avoid payments due.

Another shipowner in financial distress; another continent; more seafarers in trouble; it is not our problem — these are the unspoken words and thoughts that silently echo, let us not pretend otherwise.

Let us also not forget the actual victims here.

The personal and financial cost to the crew makes for sobering reading, as articulated in our charity’s profiling case study and disclosed signed crew letters openly begging for support to be released from what they refer to as their “slavery”.

More importantly, this case should act as a stark example to those in the maritime industry — the IMO, the ILO and the unions — that point out that seafarers have enforceable legal protections.

Not for this crew. Not since November 2016.

With families in dire financial situations, medical bills mounting and some of the crew being repatriated to look after their family members without being paid what is owed to them, it is the seafarers and those whom they went to sea to provide for who are suffering.

The vessel has not been arrested and yet significant labour violations within a port state jurisdiction are obvious on the evidence presented.

The crew should have an enforceable maritime lien for unpaid wages under a contract of employment. What appears worse, though, is that the Maritime Labour Convention is seemingly failing them at the very time and under the very circumstances that it was designed for, when it is needed the most by these seafarers.

Even more startling, is the lack of apparent urgency shown by those in a position to take robust action to legally enforce the crew’s human rights to be paid a fair wage and support their family life in India.

Where are the international protections and effective remedies, and where is the legal support for these seafarers for their maritime lien attaching to the ship and providing prejudgment security for their claim?

Bad things happen when good people turn a blind eye and fail to shoulder responsibility.

 

David Hammond, CEO, Human Rights at Sea

 

Please help us with our work to expose abuses at sea. Thank you.

 

 

 

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