Clay Maitland

On a quest for quality in shipping

Time to tackle the bottom feeders

Posted on | July 1, 2010 | 1 Comment

Good to see that David Dearsley, who was once a mighty man in the International Shipping Federation, is enjoying his retirement and chairing an International Committee on Seafarers’ Welfare, which is undertaking a strategic review of the industry’s welfare provision.

Speaking at a manning and training conference, he administered a good kicking to the “bottom tier” of maritime employers for their substandard practices, and suggested that the authorities needed to be harassing them rather more.

Everyone knows the sort of ships and shipping companies he is talking about. These are ships run on the smell of an oily rag, rather than any proper maintenance, and crewed by seafarers who, quite frankly, are not burdened by too many employment choices.

Their conditions aboard ship will be dire, but the owner, if pressed about the matter will tend to shrug and suggest that the crew freely entered into their employment contract. The flags used will be those which feature largely in port state control problem areas, and are chosen because of their beguiling freedoms and cheap rates.

Better port state controls have banished these ships and shipping companies from many parts of the world, but they stray occasionally, risking a visit into the better parts of the world, and hoping that the PSC inspectors are busy the day they arrive. And they share the same sea as better quality shipping, and scare the living daylights out of people when their knowledge of the collision rules proves somewhat lacking.

Can we ever get rid of these ships and shipowners, because they clearly are not going to  improve? Probably not, just as long as there are such differences between rich and poor, the haves and have-nots, and the developed and developing worlds.

So we will always have cases like the ship that ran out of fuel in the English Channel, ships which are detained and then abandoned by people that cannot afford to put them right, and seafarers left to fend for themselves. More regulation probably won’t help, because the sort of people we are writing about can’t cope with what there is already, and regard rules as burdens to be evaded.

Some suggest that flag states, and PSC could be a lot more rigorous in their enforcement, although if that means even more inspectors stamping up the gangways of well-found ships, that would be self-defeating.

The ability to identify poor performers through AIS will at least help to facilitate discrimination, and that would be a good thing, focussing attention on the bottom feeders, and leaving the rest and the best alone.


One Response to “Time to tackle the bottom feeders”

  1. Scott Dillon
    July 2nd, 2010 @ 11:23 am

    Very poignant however the mention of “The flags used will be those which feature largely in port state control problem areas, and are chosen because of their beguiling freedoms and cheap rates.”

    Please dont forget that many of the so called flag states which are represented by the flags depend upon the revenue derived from registration. When comparing FOC flag state revenues, so substantial is the registration revenue % that regsitration is often the largest contributor to Flag State coffers.

    Often the ships are sub standard however it is a matter of survival not the luxury of choice.
    We in the developed world look down and not view how our global neighbours live! What we should be doing is asking the question ” How can we help?”

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