Seafarer Abandonment and Vessel’s Flag State Role Analysis
Seafarers work in an environment of hardship and isolation. Abandonment is one of the major challenges faced by seafarers onboard vessels. Abandonment of seafarers broadly refers to the act of unilateral severance of ties by the shipowner with the seafarers’ onboard ship, whereby the shipowner causes a breach of fundamental obligations owed towards seafarers. Abandonment is one of the shady practices of the shipping industry, where seafarers are subjected to cruel, inhuman, and life-threatening conditions. For the last two decades, ILO and IMO have been working together to develop a legal framework to protect abandoned seafarers.
As per the data on abandonment available on ILO Database, in the year 2020, more than 1200 seafarers were abandoned.These figures raise serious questions regarding the effectiveness of the present legal regime in resolving the abandonment situations. Legally speaking abandoned seafarer has plenty of avenues to seek assistance. They can approach flag state, port state, state of nationality, or seek relief through admiralty courts. In addition to these, the abandoned seafarer can also approach financial security provider for abandonment, the provisions related to which were added in MLC, 2006 by 2014 amendments.
As the problem of abandonment constantly persists in the shipping sector, and the time taken to resolve the situation is often very long, the present paper will assess the flag state's role in protecting abandoned seafarers. The challenges that the flag state has to face in discharge its responsibilities towards abandoned seafarers have also been discussed in the Paper.
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