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Over 2,000 Ghanaian seafarers working with European Shipping Companies across the world are due to lose their jobs and be repatriated to Ghana due to government’s failure to ratify the International Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006).
The MLC which deals with international maritime labour issues is scheduled to come into force by August this year, and will affect all seafarers employed on vessels worldwide.
This was disclosed to the media at a press conference held in Tema on Thursday jointly by the Ghana Institute of Marine Surveyors (GIMS), The Ghana Merchant Navy Officers’ Association (GMNOA), the Ghana Maritime Professionals Club (MPC) and the National Union of Seamen (NUS).
Engineer Sigis Buckman, General Secretary of GMNOA addressing the press conference said unless the government through the Ghana Maritime Authority took the necessary steps to ratify the convention within the next couple of months, Ghana’s ability to supply seafarers to the global market would be affected negatively.
Eng Buckman further stated that some European shipping companies such as Oldendorf Carriers which employed several Ghanaian seafarers with a local recruitment office in Ghana had already started repatriating all Ghanaian seafarers back home in addition to initiating steps to close down its local recruitment office in the country.
He added that this development called for immediate government intervention that would expedite action on the initiation of bilateral agreements with countries such as Malta, Portugal and Netherlands within the next few weeks to safeguard the employment avenues of the seafarers.
The seafarers indicated that even though Ghana had undergone a successful European Maritime Safety Agency Audit which opened the way for Ghanaian certificates to be recognized by the European Commission since February 9, 2012, the Ghana Maritime Authority which acted on behalf of government on maritime issues had not made efforts to enter into Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with individual EU countries as required by international maritime labor practices.
“As a result, Ghanaian Certificates of Competency issued by the Ghana maritime Authority are not being recognized by the individual EU countries”, they stated.
They explained that hitherto, Ghanaian seafarers were allowed to work on European owned ships, which were registered under flags of convenience such as Panama, Liberia, and Cyprus.
The seafarers further noted that currently some countries in the EU had instituted liberal tax regimes for their ship-owners. This, they said, had encouraged and attracted several European ship owners to re-flag their vessels back to EU flags.
“The result is that, with our government’s failure to enter into separate individual MOUs with participating European countries, Ghanaian seafarers can no longer work on those European owned ships that have been re-flagged back to EU flags”.
The seafarers also raised the issue of government’s failure to ratify the ‘Standard of Training Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW ’78) 2010 Manila Amendment’ which aims at making the Convention and Code up to date as well as address new issues in that area.
They stated that parts of the convention had already entered into force since January this year, adding that Ghana was already a signatory to the STCW Convention.
Some seafarers, they indicated, had had queries from Port State Control officials whilst onboard vessels because their documents were not of the acceptable format as Ghana was yet to issue documents which complied with the requirements under the Manila Amendment of the STCW.
They therefore pleaded to the Ghana Maritime Authority to consider the possibility of seafarers losing their jobs, and to immediately initiate steps to ratify the conventions as well as enter into the necessary MOU with the EU countries.
They stated that the maritime sector, especially seafarers, had the potential to bring more remittances into the country as well as create lob opportunities for the youth if Ghana would take advantage of using its existing maritime training infrastructure to train more people to meet the predicted shortage of ship officers in the maritime industry worldwide over the next five years.
The seafarers stressed that any investment in training more people in maritime operations and the ratification of the needed conventions by government would yield very good returns since due to an upsurge of energy, industries coming to Ghana as well as other West African countries along the coast had the ability to absorb those trained seafarers.