Cheap sea transport with low cost seafarers

The aim of “Atalanta operation” against pirates is to protect ships sailing off the Somali coast. It was waged after many sailors lost their lives there. A number of naval countries have sent there armed forces to patrol the area.

The last Transport, Telecommunications and Energy (TTE) Council of the European Union dedicated to transport issues, took place in Luxemburg, towards the end of October 2012. The main item on the agenda came under the title, “Improving working and living conditions for seafarers”. Nothing is more misleading than this. Progressively it seems that the EU institutional jargon reminds of the dreadful “doubletalk”, in George Orwell’s grate novel “1984”. Back to October 2012, the Council reached a General Approach on the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC – 2006) Enforcement Package which consists of two legislative proposals laying down the responsibilities of flag states, on the one hand, and port states, on the other. The MLC, adopted by the International Labour Organisation in 2006, will enter into force as binding international law on August 20 2013.

In reality what the EU did by this, is only to follow what very little the ILO decided to improve the working conditions of sailors. The EU has never embarked in this field to do something by itself. In reality EU’s policies in this domain are dictated by the strong shipping countries like Greece, Denmark, Italy and Cyprus. All those member states formulate their maritime policies according to the interests of their very strong shipping communities, presided by ship-owners. In all those countries their ocean-going fleets are not manned any more by locals. European sailors have become very expensive. The large majority of the labour force in EU owned merchant ships comes from developing regions in Asia and South America. As a result the rights of those sailors are obviously neglected in Europe. If Brussels wanted to extend protective labour legislation to seafarers, it would suffice to impose such measures to all ships calling to EU ports. But no, the EU Commission would never embark to such a difficult journey. Exactly for the same reason the Commission excluded the shipping industry from the “pollution tax” imposed on the air transport business.

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