The Estonian Seamen’s Independent Union (EMSA) wants the International Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) changed so that it would guarantee the protection of the income of ship crew members in case they are held hostage as the result of piracy or an armed robbery.
The Ministry of Social Affairs is seeking opinions from unions on a bill of amendments to the MLC, which have been proposed by representatives of seamen as well as shipowners, and which concern the protection of ship crew members’ income in case of being held hostage by pirates.
The shipowners’ group finds that protection should be assured with guidelines, which are recommendations, not obligatory. Representatives of seamen find that the convention as well as standards need to be changed, EMSA said in a reply to the ministry.
It is a very important issue for seamen, secretary general of EMSA Kaia Vask said. “Members of a crew can’t decide whether a ship will sail to a piracy region or not. The choice is made by the ship’s owner. Members of the crew also don’t have the chance to influence a shipowner’s choice to guarantee armed protection for a ship,” she added.
If a ship is hijacked by pirates and the crew is captured, then the crew members are not the only ones who suffer, but also their family members who count on the income. Therefore it is crucial that the families are guaranteed adequate income for the duration of being held hostage. But this cannot only be guaranteed with voluntary recommendations, EMSA finds.