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Saturday, October 1, 2016
Conference highlights seafarers' woeful conditions
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¬† Unpaid wages, denial of shore leave, high stress levels and physical injury are just part of the everyday picture of life at sea, a gathering of lawyers, specialising in shipping was told at a two-day conference in the city of London. The seminar on maritime labour law and claims - organised by the Lloyd's of London's Maritime Academy on 16-17 June and accredited by the Law Society of England and Wales ≠ heard that the most common cause of accidents at sea was the human factor. The meeting was also told that little attention was being paid to the welfare of seafarers. One lawyer referred to recent cases of Filipino seafarers being refused shore leave in Poland, after weeks at sea. The impact of injury and stress on seafarers' families back home was also noted. Often seafarers from countries such as the Philippines, India or China are the only source of income for their family. When injury occurs, or wages are unpaid, not only does the seafarer suffer but also his whole family is thrown into uncertainty about the future. The lawyers were informed that 30% of insurance claims in the shipping world were for personal injury, 76% of which could have been prevented. A psychiatric injury expert revealed that seafarers could suffer mentally through stress, the witnessing of accidents and, in some cases, harassment. When these factors occur the seafarer is less able to carry out his work safely. John Green, Development Director at the Apostleship of the Sea, was at the seminar and observed: "The meeting confirmed the experience of AOS Port Chaplains around the country that seafarers often arrive in port stressed out and suffering fatigue. When accidents occur on ships, it is often linked to tiredness or poor living and working conditions for seafarers. The fact that good working conditions and welfare support for seafarers is linked to fewer accidents, and thus a lower cost of insurance, in no surprise." The gathering also heard that a new Maritime Convention being prepared by the IMO - the maritime branch of the United Nations - would lead to the reduction of accidents at sea and the improvement in seafarers' living and working conditions. AOS National Director Commodore Chris York said: 'I am delighted that an awareness of the link between the provision of good living and working conditions for seafarers, worthy of their human dignity, is beginning to be seen as something important by the shipping industry. The failure to pay attention to the welfare of seafarers leads not only to the poor operation of ships but also to the denial of seafarers' human dignity as they are treated as objects of gain rather than as members of the human family." Commodore York continued: "For seafarers, factors such as separation from home and family for months at a time, loneliness and overwork combine to make seafaring one of the most stressful and hazardous careers today. In a few weeks on 10th July, the Church will mark Sea Sunday. This will be an opportunity to remember and support the work of AOS alongside seafarers. Seafarers may not make the newspaper headlines when they suffer some tragedy, such as the sinking of their ship or the losing of a limb, but with 95% of world trade carried by sea, our way of life has never depended on seafarers as much. We must not overlook the rights and dignity of seafarers." Source: AOS
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