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Protecting the welfare of seafarers

Thursday, 23 February 2012 | 00:00
More than 30 ships were inspected during the Southeast Asia Flags of Convenience campaign (FOC) conducted by port-based trade unions here and Penang on behalf of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF).
Malaysian Seafarers Union organising secretary Rafiq Ramoo said the objective was to ensure that seafarers on-board are paid according to the agreement they have with shipping companies.
Rafiq said, "During the inspection, we check the living conditions of the seafarers, and ensure that adequate food and potable water is provided in the ship.
"Very often ITF gets complaints that seafarers are underpaid or forced to work long hours without rest," said Rafiq who is also the ITF liaison person for seafarers in Malaysia.
He said, "Sailors were interviewed to see if there were any complaints and we also met the ship captains to view the relevant documents which protect the rights of the seafarers."
Nikolas Tzamarias, captain of MV Irenes Remedy which is registered in Greece, raised the issue of problematic seamen who are not capable of carrying out their duties.
Nikolas said, "ITF should not get involved if disciplinary action is taken as not only will the seamen suffer, it will also affect the morale of the seamen working in the ship."
Seaman Benjie A. Aperin, 26, from the Philippines, who works on-board the MV Irenes Remedy said, "I am happy working as a seafarer for two years. I enjoy a good relationship with my crew mates and also the ship management."
Benjie said, "I am aware of ITF's role in assisting seafarers who need help wherever they are around the world".
Benjie said, "I do not have the time to leave the ship at the port of call as there is limited time and the ship will sail within a day, even if I have the time I prefer not to go to the nearest town as I may tend to spend more shopping for things."
Rafiq said, "Last year, there were 10 cases of non-payment of wages to seafarers. Of these, one case was settled where two seafarers were paid RM60,000 as compensation."
"Another case which involves 20 seafarers with back wages of almost RM200,000 has yet to be settled. We are waiting for the ship to be sold so that the seafarers can get their compensation."
Rafiq said the ships were in Malaysian waters when the issue of non-payment of wages were taken up by the Malaysian Seafarers Union.
Besides Rafiq, other members of the inspection team included Union of Employees of Port Ancillary Services Suppliers president Seerajuddin Abbas Bhay and exco member R. Manivannan.
The FOC campaign was launched by Zainal Rampak, general-secretary of the Transport Workers Union.
Source: New Straits Times
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