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International Inspectors Put ‘Worst Flags’ in the Crosshairs

Mike Schuler
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March 17, 2023

ITF targets the four worst flags in bid to scrap unsafe shipping from Mediterranean Sea.

Inspectors from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), seafarers’ unions, and port authorities will target up to 1,000 ships flagged to the Cook Islands, Palau, Sierra Leone, and Togo for safety, maintenance and seafarer welfare inspections in the Mediterranean Sea over the next eight weeks.

The move comes after the four Flags of Convenience registries were linked to more than 100 crew abandonments in the past two years and over $5.5 million in unpaid wages. The Cook Islands, Palau, Sierra Leone, and Togo flags have also been responsible for over 5,200 deficiencies or detentions issued by European Port State Control enforcement agencies.

“Substandard shipping in the Mediterranean Sea is driving down seafarers’ wages and conditions, its endangering the lives of crew and risking our environment,” said ITF Inspectorate Coordinator Steve Trowsdale. “These flags take money from shipowners to register ships that other countries wouldn’t touch. Many are old vessels and are poorly-maintained by their owners. Many of these ships are dangerous and should not be trading.”

France’s Port State Control agencies will also join the campaign.

“These are now the worst flags operating in the Mediterranean Sea,” said Seddik Berrama, General Secretary of Algeria’s transport union FNTT and ITF Vice President for the Arab World region. “The world’s major Port State Control agency groupings have said these flags are not quality. They have said they are high- or very-high risk. That is unacceptable for crew safety just as it is unacceptable for those of us who rely on a clean sea, like our port communities here in Algeria.”

“Our goal is to expose the substandard shipping examples that we see regularly in our ports. If we are able to spread word of the abuses experienced by crew onboard are too often ignored by these flags, then we will send a strong message that substandard shipping is unacceptable,” Berrama added.

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