Abandonment affects real people, often leaving them in a desperate plight. Loss of wages impacts the seafarer and their family. Health may suffer and there may not be medical help. Food supplies may run out. Uncertainty about how and when the seafarer or seafarers can get home can cause a huge toll.
IMO is continuing to focus its efforts on improving the situation usually through the diplomatic efforts of the Secretariat and the IMO Secretary-General. The issue of abandonment of seafarers has been recognized as a serious issue by Secretary-General Kitack Lim.
The IMO Legal Committee is the main forum where the issue is discussed. Updates from IMO and ILO secretariats are provided and the Committee meetings provide an opportunity for the issue of abandonment to be raised. The Legal Committee is attended by representatives from Member States as well as relevant international NGOS in consultative status representing the shipping industry, charities and seafarers.
Seafarer-related issues constitute a continuing thread that has run through IMO's work for several decades. On the one hand, the clear understanding that seafarers are ultimately responsible for implementing many of IMO's measures have led to standards for seafarer training, certification and watchkeeping being developed and enshrined in the STCW Convention.
On the other hand, a related concern for their welfare, both as employees and as individuals, is evident in IMO’s continuing work on issues such as fatigue, fair treatment and liability and compensation for seafarers.
IMO’s annual Day of the Seafarer, celebrated each year on June 25th, is the Organization's global campaign to give wider recognition to seafarers.
Seafarer abandonment is a serious problem that can blight the lives of those caught up in it. It must be tackled and it needs continual cooperation, not just between IMO and ILO and non-governmental organizations devoted to seaman’s welfare, but with flag States, port States and other industry groups too. We all have a human duty to protect seafarers