A MEETING of the International Maritime Organization and International Labour Organization has adopted new guidelines on seafarer abandonment.

The IMO and ILO said the new measures intend to improve conditions for seafarers, including those who have been abandoned.

The guidelines were adopted at a meeting involving governments, maritime workers and employers’ organisations.

Cases of crew abandonment (reported to the ILO) have risen from less than 20 cases per year between 2011 and 2016, to 40 in 2019, 85 in 2020, 95 in 2021, and 114 as of mid-December 2022.

“The guidelines aim to improve co-ordination among countries … in order to resolve abandonment cases more quickly, including getting seafarers paid and repatriated home to their families,” the IMO and ILO said in a joint statement.

Those countries include flag states, port states, states in which seafarers are national or resident, and states in which recruitment and placement services operate.

The IMO and IMO said under the Maritime Labour Convention 2006, flag states must ensure a financial security system is in place for ships under those flags.

“The new guidelines encourage flag states to verify, at least annually, the validity of this financial security,” they said.

“Port states are encouraged to pay particular attention to this financial security during their inspections of foreign ships that visit their ports.

“States where recruitment and placement services operate are also called upon to regularly verify that those services include a system to ensure the protection of the seafarers they recruit and place.”

The new guidelines set out procedures to be taken by states if a shipowner fails to fulfil their obligations to arrange and cover the cost of repatriation of seafarers, outstanding wages and other contracted entitlements, and the provision of essential needs, including medical care.

“In these circumstances seafarers are then considered abandoned,” the organisations said.

“These procedures include developing, in co-operation with seafarers’ and shipowners’ organisations, national standard operating procedures to explicitly define the liabilities and obligations of the competent authority and the roles to be played by the various national stakeholders.

“These stakeholders include the relevant national seafarers’ welfare boards, shipping agencies, seafarers’ and shipowners’ organisations, seafarer welfare organisations, seafarer recruitment and placement services, and others.”

The meeting also discussed the importance of the joint ILO-IMO database on reported abandonment incidents, and the need to update and improve it.

The Tripartite Working Group’s first meeting brought together more than 250 representatives and observers from governments and shipowners’ and seafarers’ representative organisations.

The meeting was held in hybrid format in Geneva from 13–15 December 2022.

The outcomes of the meeting are to be reported to the ILO Governing Body and IMO Legal Committee in 2023.