by Douglas B. Stevenson, Director, Center for Seafarers’ Rights
In my capacity as Chairman of the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA), a worldwide association of 28 Christian organizations engaged in maritime ministries, I participated in an ICMA regional conference in Odessa, Ukraine from April 8-11, 2013. The conference brought together port chaplains working in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and Middle East region.
ICMA’s regional conferences serve as very important vehicles for improving services to seafarers by strengthening networking and collaboration among chaplains from various Christian denominations. The chaplains who serve seafarers often work in isolation in various ports, but during regional conferences, issues common to several ports often emerge, providing a forum for exchanging participants’ collective experience to address them.
During the Odessa conference, two issues figured prominently in the discussions: chaplains’ access to port facilities and implementation of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006). Drawing on my position as Director of the Center for Seafarers’ Rights, I shared SCI’s experience with these issues.
One of the chaplains’ access problems relates to the privatization of marine terminals in ports in the region. Some of the recently privatized terminal operators have placed new restrictions on chaplains’ access to vessels in their ports. I briefed the participants on the provisions of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code that require each port facility’s security plan to accommodate chaplains’ access to ships through the terminal. This information empowers chaplains in their meetings with the terminals. In addition, I gathered detailed information on specific terminals at which chaplains reported restricted access. I will present this information to government representatives at the International Maritime Organization.
I also led a training session on the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 and its impact on port chaplains when it comes into force on August 20 this year in 35 countries and on their ships. Ukraine’s failure to ratify the convention poses particular problems for Ukrainian port chaplains and Ukrainian seafarers. When the MLC, 2006 comes into force, about 70% of the world’s merchant ships will have to certify that their seafarer placement agencies comply with its requirements, such as prohibitions against charging placement fees to seafarers. Seafarers in countries that have not ratified the MLC, 2006, such as Ukraine, will find it increasingly difficult to find jobs after the MLC, 2006 comes into force. I am working with Ukrainian seafarer placement agencies, trade unions and governmental authorities to encourage Ukraine to ratify the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 expeditiously.