International inspectors take “worst flags” in their crosshairs Ship’s crew

The ITF is targeting the four worst flags to eliminate unsafe shipping from the Mediterranean.

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

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

“Substandard shipping in the Mediterranean reduces seafarers’ wages and working conditions, puts crew lives at risk and endangers our environment,” said Steve Trowsdale, coordinator of the ITF inspection. “These flags take money from shipowners to register ships that other countries wouldn’t touch. Many are old ships and poorly maintained by their owners. Many of these ships are dangerous and should not be traded.”

The French port state control authorities will also join the campaign.

“These are now the worst flags in the Mediterranean,” said Seddik Berrama, general secretary of the Algerian transport union FNTT and ITF vice-president for the Arab World region. “The world’s largest groupings of port state control authorities have said that these flags are of poor quality. They have said they pose a high or very high risk. This is just as unacceptable for crew safety as it is for those of us who depend on a clean sea, like our port communities here in Algeria.”

“Our goal is to uncover the substandard shipping examples that we regularly see in our ports. If we are able to publicize the mistreatment of crew onboard, which is too often ignored by these flags, we will send a strong message that substandard shipping is unacceptable,” added Berrama.

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