In this issue, 3 2009, of SAN News we have chosen to turn our gaze outwards and take a closer look at the conditions onboard ships in the world’s merchant navy. Which flags offer good working conditions and which are the worst?
It is difficult to give categorical answers to such questions since conditions vary substantially between different ships sailing under the same flag. The fact remains, however, that some flags have more sub-standard ships than others.
In the report on Da Hua, we follow the experienced ITF inspector Annica Barning on a ship inspection in Norrköping harbour. She explains in the car on the way there that she never uses the toilets on the ships she inspects. “I promise you, you wouldn’t want to”, she confides – which says a lot about the living environment on ships with a flag of convenience.
Better and worse examples
Some countries are trying to raise the quality of their fleets. Malta is one such example. In preparation for its EU membership the government weeded out many ships from the country’s shipping register, which raised it from the Paris MoU grey list to the white list.
Even though Malta is still classified as a flag of convenience, the union representatives on the island say that conditions on Maltese flagged ships are considerably better than they were ten to fifteen years ago. The country’s transport minister, Austin Gatt, says that Malta certainly lost a large number of ships during the purge, but the register has continued to grow even after the tightening up.
But unfortunately there are many examples of really decrepit ships and extremely dubious flags in the world shipping trade. The Paris MoU black list is topped by North Korea, Bolivia and Albania. Out of the ships inspected from these countries between 2006 and 2008, over one-third were banned from sailing.
Rusty, oily and dilapidated
On the Paris MoU website there are a large number of pictures of rust-damaged, oily ships with defective lifeboats and fire pumps and miserable sanitary conditions.
Maybe the ILO maritime super Convention (read more on page 3), which Sweden will hopefully sign soon, can contribute to making a real difference for those who work at sea. It is sorely needed.
editor, San news