Abandonment, personal injury and death of seafarers - draft guidelines

 Joint IMO/ILO Ad Hoc Expert Working Group on Liability and Compensation regarding Claims for Death,
Personal Injury and Abandonment of Seafarers 2nd meeting, 30 October - 3 November 2000

A Joint International Maritime Organization (IMO)/International Labour Organization (ILO) Working Group has developed draft resolutions and guidelines to address the problems of abandonment, personal injury and death of seafarers.

    The Joint IMO/ Ad Hoc Expert Working Group on Liability and Compensation regarding Claims for Death, Personal Injury and Abandonment of Seafarers, which was established following submissions to the IMO Legal Committee and the ILO Governing Body during 1998 and 1999, met at IMO headquarters for its second session from 30 October to 3 November.

    The Working Group developed the draft text of two resolutions and associated guidelines, one relating to abandonment and one relating to death and injury. The Working Group agreed to hold a third meeting in from 30 April to 4 May 2001 to finalize the resolutions and guidelines before presenting them to the IMO and ILO governing bodies for final approval and adoption.

    The resolutions and guidelines are intended to address the fact that although there are a considerable number of international instruments concerned with certain aspects of the problems relating to abandonment, death and personal injury of seafarers, none adequately deal with the problem comprehensively.

    The ILO’s overriding goal is to promote opportunities for all women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. A number of ILO instruments contain clauses relating to conditions of work on board ships and the rights and duties of shipping employers and employees.

    IMO is the United Nations agency concerned with safety of shipping and protection of the marine environment and is concerned with ensuring ships comply with international standards, including financial security.

Guidelines on provision of financial security in cases of abandonment of seafarers

    The proposed possible draft resolution states that abandonment of seafarers is a serious problem, involving a human and social dimension and requiring urgent attention. It affirms that payment and remuneration and provision for repatriation should form part of the seafarer's contractual and/or statutory rights and are not affected by the failure or inability of the shipowner to perform his obligations.

    The draft resolution recognizes that in cases where the shipowner fails to perform, flag States are called upon, and in some cases labour-supplying States may be called upon, to intervene.

    The draft guidelines on provision of financial security in cases of abandonment of seafarers suggest the possibility of having flag States requiring shipowners to have effective financial security (such as a bank guarantee) to cover their contractual obligation, even in cases of abandonment. In this connection it was recognized that abandonment included not only repatriation, but also support for the crew members while stranded and payment of outstanding remuneration. Immigration status while stranded was also a related issue.

Guidelines on shipowners responsibilities in respect of contractual claim
for personal injury to or death of seafarers

    The proposed possible draft resolution notes there is a need to recommend minimum international standards for the responsibilities of shipowners in respect of contractual claims for personal injury and death of seafarers. The draft resolution notes concern that if shipowners do not have effective insurance cover, or other form of financial security, seafarers may not obtain prompt and adequate compensation.

    The draft resolution adds that recommendatory guidelines are an appropriate interim means of establishing a framework to encourage all shipowners to take steps to ensure that seafarers receive contractual compensation for personal injury and death.

    The draft guidelines give definitions for contractual claims, effective insurance and so on, and set out shipowners' responsibilities to arrange for effective insurance cover. The draft guidelines recommend ships should carry a certificate issued by the insurer.

    The draft guidelines include a model receipt and release form which would be signed by the seafarer or heir or dependent and which would acknowledge receipt of a sum in satisfaction of employer's obligation to pay contractual compensation for personal injury and/or death. But, importantly, the form would state that payment would be made without admission of liability and without prejudice to the right to pursue any claim in law in respect of the incident.

Next WG meeting

    The third meeting of the Working Group is expected to finalise the draft resolutions and guidelines for presentation to the IMO Legal Committee at its 83rd session in October 2001 and to the ILO Governing Body at its 279th in late 2001. The resolutions and guidelines could then be adopted by the IMO Assembly in November 2001.

Leros Strength widows urge solution to crew claims problem

    Two widows of seafarers drowned on bulk carrier Leros Strength welcomed the work of the Joint Working Group in seeking to resolve the issues of abandonment, personal injury and death of seafarers.

    In a statement to the Working Group, Urszula Miegon and Regina Szysmanska said that immediately after the sinking, representatives of the company made vigorous efforts to persuade all the widows to accept the sum of US$30,000 as compensation for their husbands' deaths; and were asked to waive all other claims.

    The widows said they were being helped by a lawyer to pursue their claim for compensation for possible negligence by the shipowners and also to determine the cause of the loss of the ship and its crew.

    The widows were also received by IMO Secretary-General Mr. William A. O'Neil.