Inspectors from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) continue making a big difference in the lives of mariners around the world.
That point seems clear in the immediate aftermath of a new report showing that the inspectors recovered more than $118.5 million in wages owed to mariners between the years 2020 and 2022. The federation published those figures on World Maritime Day, Sept. 28.
The SIU is affiliated with the ITF; SIU President David Heindel chairs the federation’s Seafarers’ Section.
ITF inspectors are officials who board vessels to educate seafarers on their rights; identify any violations of crew contracts, national laws or international conventions; and who then work with authorities to ensure that rights are enforced. The ITF has inspectors operating from 111 ports in 56 countries.
According to the federation, 2,199 breach-of-contract cases were reported by mariners to the ITF in 2022 alone, with non-payment of wages the most common reason.
“While we are proud that our inspectors have been successful in recovering almost $120 million for seafarers in the last three years, it’s unfortunate that we need to address wage underpayments at all,” Heindel stated. “We would prefer to see all seafarers paid in full, and paid on time in the first place. For some seafarers, a shipowner might miss a pay date here or there, but others can go months without receiving their salaries. ITF inspectors, supported by our seafarer and docker union affiliates, are here to help crews stand up for their rights wherever they find themselves in need of support.”
In 2022, ITF inspectors conducted 8,667 ship inspections worldwide. Nearly 1,900 of those operations were in response to mariners’ calls, emails or other messages seeking for help from the ITF.
An additional 3,771 were conducted as part of inspectors’ ongoing system of routine and responsive inspections, which ensure ships flagged to so-called flags-of-convenience (FOC) registries adhere to the same international standards expected of nationally flagged vessels.
ITF President and Dockers’ Section Chair Paddy Crumlin said, “Pandemic-related restrictions had blocked most of our inspectors from boarding vessels in the way they had done pre-pandemic. We are now seeing a strong return to active and regular inspections of flag-of-convenience vessels – and still the same level of exploitation. It’s another stark reminder of the underbelly of our industry, and also that more ITF inspections taking place is good news for seafarers and their rights.”