News Bulletin – 17 October 2020

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1. NZ Government to Fund Seafarers’ Centers.

16 Oct 2020 : Following an advocacy campaign by Human Rights at Sea, the government of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that it will pursue legislation to fund seafarers’ centers in the nation’s ports. The change will allow government port fees to be used to care for seafarers.

Under the Maritime Labour Convention, New Zealand has an obligation to provide for crews who come ashore in New Zealand but this is currently funded largely through charitable sources,” the Labour-led government said in its end-of-year manifesto. “Labour will ensure that Seafarer Welfare Centres provide services to the level required by the ILO Maritime Labour Convention 2006 by amending the [NZ] Maritime Transport Act 1994 to enable the maritime levy to fund the services required for seafarers’ wellbeing.”

An HRAS-sponsored study issued earlier this year highlighted the challenges facing New Zealand’s charity-operated seafarer reception facilities. According to the report, seafarers arriving in New Zealand’s ports do not always have access to a warm and secure building with essential welfare facilities.

2. Indian Government Coordinates Action To Improve Seafarers’ Human Rights.

15 Oct 2020 : Human Rights at Sea is pleased to report that the Indian Ministry of Shipping is working with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India to improve human rights outcomes for Indian seafarers around the world. This is an ongoing and developing process at the senior government and agency level which has also seen the NHRC engage with the UK charity.

Nearly 90 percent of Indian seafarers are employed on foreign-flagged vessels. Explicit action to protect their human rights comes after a presentation to the Government from the think-tank, Forum for Integrated National Security (FINS), in July last year.

Earlier that year, on 28 February, FINS held a one-day seminar on “Human Rights at Sea” which was attended by more than 250 delegates, including India’s Director-General of the National Shipping Board, the current and former Director-General of Shipping, industry bodies, seafarers, union leaders and NGOs, including the UK charity Human Rights At Sea.

3. Occupational safety of ship breaking workers.

15 Oct 2020 : Traumatic deaths and injuries have become part of the work life of the ship breaking workers in Sitakunda. By dismantling around 47.20 per cent of world vessels, Bangladesh became the world’s top destination for retired ships.

A report ‘Review of Maritime Transport 2019′ by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) revealed that India (25.6 per cent), Pakistan (21.5 per cent) and Bangladesh make up (70-80 per cent) of the international recycling market for ocean-going vessels. These three countries have high needs for scrap metal. In Bangladesh, the steel from these recycled ships is used in mills where it is rerolled to support the immense growth of construction works. The bulk material sold for breaking comes from oil tankers, bulk carriers and container ships.

Bangladesh Ship Breakers and Recyclers Association reported that 221 ships were brought for demolition in 2015, 250 ships in 2016, 214 ships in 2017, and 221 ships in 2018. The industry supplies 60-70 per cent raw materials to the re-rolling mills of the country. The inland water vessels and other lighter vessels are also made from this salvaged steel.

4. Pirates are kidnapping more seafarers off West Africa, IMB reports.

15 Oct 2020 : ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) figures show a rise in piracy and armed robbery on the world’s seas in the first nine months of 2020, with a 40% increase in the number of kidnappings reported in the Gulf of Guinea. Pirates armed with guns and knives are abducting bigger groups of seafarers at further distances off the West African coast.

IMB’s latest global piracy report details 132 attacks since the start of 2020, up from 119 incidents in the same period last year. Of the 85 seafarers kidnapped from their vessels and held for ransom, 80 were taken in the Gulf of Guinea – in 14 attacks reported off Nigeria, Benin, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Ghana.

In the first nine months of 2020, seafarers reported 134 cases of assault, injury and threats, including 85 crewmembers being kidnapped and 31 held hostage onboard their ships. A total of 112 vessels were boarded and six were fired upon, while 12 reported attempted attacks. Two fishing vessels were hijacked, both in the Gulf of Guinea.

5. Indian Ports Association joins international port community system’s body.

14 Oct 2020 : The country’s major ports’ apex body Indian Ports Association (IPA) has become the latest member of the International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA), a release said on Tuesday.

A successor to the European Port Community Systems Association (ECPSA), which was launched in June 2011 by six founding members, all European-based port community system operators, IPCSA and its members play a vital role in global trade facilitation. The electronic communications platforms provided by port community systems (PCSs) ensure smooth transport and logistics operations at hundreds of sea ports, airports and inland ports.

IPCSA is delighted to welcome the IPA, which brings with it their experience and knowledge on how to develop a national PCS,” IPA quoted IPCSA Chairman Hans Rook as saying in the release.

He added that the inclusion of the Indian ports through PCS1x platform into IPCSA is a new milestone in IPCSA’s development and will support in the implementation of new global initiatives.

6. Detained Panama seafarers claim rights abuse.

13 Oct 2020 : Panama flagged  Star Balboa remains in Trinidad and Tobago, where 17 crew members  are linked to three alleged crimes: ” drug trafficking, drug and ammunition trafficking, and trafficking in women.”

The boat and its crew, including eight Panamanians and three nationals, have been detained since September 3 and to date nothing has been found, said José Araúz, father of the ship’s officer. “The entire ship has been searched  and if there was something illegal they should have already found it,” said Araúz, who communicates with the crew daily.

All the relatives of the crew members have come together to ask the Trinidad and Tobago authorities to comment. “Trinidad and Tobago has not said anything since day one,” Araúz said. The director of Seafarers of the Panama Maritime Authority, Juan Maltéz told La Prensa that a visit is planned to find out the status of the seafarers after 43 days in detention.

7. Ex-seafarers reiterate demand for resumption of pension scheme.

12 Oct 2020 : Retired seafarers and their widows, on Saturday staged protest, at Benaulim, demanding the resumption of the pension scheme. The scheme has been put on hold for a year now. Earlier last week, retired seafarers and their widows had held a similar protest in Assolna, urging the local MLA to take up the issue.

In Benaulim too, the seafarers headed by the Goa Seamen Association of India (GSAI) held placards and organised a rally urging the local MLA to raise the issue in the Assembly.  Last week, we protested in the Velim constituency, and today we are in Benaulim where the local MLA is a seafarer himself. It has been a year but the scheme has not started yet.

The MLA should take up this issue for the people of his own constituency and he should tell the CM to restart the scheme. We also appeal to the CM not to bring us back to the streets,” said GSAI president Frank Viegas. The association’s vice president Gabriel Pinto also recalled former CM Parrikar’s efforts to start the scheme.

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