Abandonment, personal injury and death of seafarers needs urgent action

Joint IMO/ILO Ad Hoc Expert Working Group on Liability and Compensation regarding Claims for Death, Personal Injury and Abandonment of Seafarers, 1st meeting 11 to 15 October

The problems of abandonment, personal injury and death of seafarers need urgent remedial action, according to a Joint International Maritime Organization (IMO)/International Labour Organization (ILO) Ad Hoc Expert Working Group on Liability and Compensation regarding Claims for Death, Personal Injury and Abandonment of Seafarers which met at IMO headquarters from 11 to 15 October.

The Working Group noted that although there were a considerable number of international instruments which dealt with certain aspects of the problems relating to abandonment, death and personal injury of seafarers, none adequately addressed the problem comprehensively.

The Working Group, which was established following submissions to the IMO Legal Committee during 1998 and 1999, agreed that a joint IMO/ILO approach was the best way to examine the problems and make recommendations to the parent bodies.

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, while 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.

The Working Group noted that compliance with international standards was essential and that nothing should be done that would encourage substandard shipping.

The Working Group agreed that:

  • Flag States should establish real and effective mechanisms to meet their obligations and to ensure that shipowners repatriate their crew members/seafarers and address all aspects of the problem. The main issues arising from problems of abandonment of ships’ crew include: repatriation; support for crew members while stranded; immigration status; and the question of the payment of outstanding remuneration.

  • The ILO should: promote ratification of Repatriation of Seafarers Convention (Revised), 1987 (No.166); evaluate the extent of non-compliance with existing relevant ILO instruments; and assess the inherent weakness of these Conventions with regard to crew claims.

  • The Working Group should meet again to discuss the main issues. In particular, the Group should assess information on existing mechanisms to address the problems of abandoned crew members/seafarers and consider possible arrangements for financial security, such as the establishment of an international fund or national measures of comparable effectiveness.

  • The issues of abandonment, personal injury and death were real and serious matters, with a human and social dimension, and that it was urgent to find solutions to address them.

The Working Group is expected to meet again during 2000, following discussions at IMO and ILO. It is expected to review existing instruments relating to abandonment, death and personal injury of seafarers and to consider possible longer term arrangements, such as the establishment of an international fund or national measures.

 

The Working Group agreed it would need further information, to be submitted by ILO/IMO Member States and other organizations, relating to the following:

 

  • The reasons for the low rates of ratification of relevant existing international instruments.
  • Existing national schemes and systems dealing with problems of abandonment of crew members/seafarers.
  • Lessons learned from various civil liability regimes and their impact on certification schemes.
  • Existing national schemes and systems for dealing with financial security for personal injury and death.

Based on this information, the Working Group is expected to be able to examine and evaluate possible new approaches for dealing with the issues of abandonment, personal injury and death of seafarers. The Group would examine a number of possible solutions to the problems as follows:

 

Relating to abandonment:

  • National funds

  • An international fund

  • Compulsory insurance

  • Systems based on Bank Guarantees or similar mechanisms

  • Other, such as the establishment of Focal Points (national representatives) and preparation of guidelines.

 

Relating to personal injury and death:

  • Compulsory insurance

  • Personal accident insurance

  • National funds

  • An international fund

  • Other.