ITF Accuses Saudi Shipowner of Abandoning Crews Without Pay

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The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has accused a Saudi shipowner of abandoning its seafarers without pay, sometimes for up to five months at a time. 

Hadi H Al Hamman Establishment, a Mideast regional OSV company, operates a midsize fleet of 35 OSVs. It has had contracts with big names in the past, but it appears to have fallen on hard times, according to ITF. Some of its seafaring employees told ITF that they have been left without food, water or fuel, and that their pay has only arrived sporadically – if at all. ITF listed more than a dozen vessels that may be affected. 

“Until now I didn’t receive any salary [for 5 months] and I would like to inform you we have shortages of food and fuel all the time, we are suffering all the time,” one Hadi-employed seafarer told ITF. 

The Maritime Labor Convention requires shipowners to pay their crews, and flag states and insurers are supposed to provide a backstop if the owner can’t or won’t meet payroll. Crewmembers who are owed two or more months of back pay are considered abandoned under the MLC. Lack of food and water are also conditions meeting the standard for abandonment. At that point, the crew (often with ITF’s help) can apply to the vessel’s insurer to step in and meet the owner’s obligations. 

ITF sees this particular instance as a clear case of abandonment. 

“With so many vessels from the same company involved, it seems likely that the owners are in some sort of financial difficulty,” said Steve Trowsdale, the ITF’s Inspectorate Coordinator. “If you’re not paying your crews, you are already bankrupt, both financially and morally.”

The majority of the Hadi fleet is flagged in Bahrain, and ITF has appealed to the flag registry for help. However, the Bahraini authorities have not taken steps to hold the owner accountable and resolve the situation, ITF said. Mohamed Arrachedi, the ITF’s flags of convenience coordinator for the region, said that Bahrain is one of the few nations that have not ratified the Maritime Labor Convention, and that its officials have not been responsive. 

Hadi is covered by a reputable insurer, Gard, and ITF plans to request an MLC insurance claim if the shipowner and flag state do not resolve the situation soon. 

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