Report reveals extent of illegal recruitment fees levied on seafarers Ship’s crew

A new report by Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and the Mission to Seafarers has revealed the extent of illegal recruitment fees being charged to seafarers, in breach of the Maritime Labor Convention.

The report entitled Survey of fees and charges for recruiting or placing seafarers, sheds light on the problem of seafarers being forced to pay illegal dues and fees. The report includes a survey of over 200 seafarers, with nearly 65% ​​of those surveyed saying they were aware of illegal demands for recruitment or placement fees.

The poll found that 92% of respondents think illegal fees when recruiting seafarers should be abolished. Indian nationals were hit hardest: 29% of the cases involved them and 36% of the claims were made in India. Occupation agents were responsible for 58% of illegal claims, with 56% of claims being labeled “service charge”.

Fees ranged from $50 to $100 up to $7,500, with an average of $1,872. The report found that 10% of the affected seafarers are still in debt and 29% had their documents unlawfully withheld during the process, including their continuous discharge certificate/seaman’s book, passport or certificate of competency.

The Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) prohibits seafarers from paying fees for recruitment, placement or employment except for certain documents. However, the report confirms that despite the introduction of the MLC in 2013, seafarers are still being forced to pay illegal fees.

Illegal recruitment fees in the seafaring industry can have a significant impact on seafarers and their families, including financial distress, psychological distress and limited career opportunities. In the worst case, human rights violations such as debt bondage and exploitative working conditions can occur. This issue also poses a reputational risk to the shipping industry and exacerbates labor shortages, discouraging existing and prospective seafarers from pursuing a career at sea.

The report is part of a discussion at the Global Forum for Responsible Recruitment, which brings together diverse groups to discuss responsible recruitment on a global scale.

Ben Bailey, program director of The Mission to Seafarer, spoke at the forum about the specific challenges seafarers face in relation to their employment and working conditions.

“This report confirms what seafarers have been informally telling us about the scourge of illegal fees and charges that so many of them are forced to pay in exchange for their employment,” Bailey said. “Not only does the data shed new light on this phenomenon, the anecdotal feedback from seafarers shows just how widespread and damaging this problem is for individuals and their families.”

Bailey said the illegal charging of seafarer recruitment harms seafarers and their families and the reputation of the shipping industry. He said meaningful action was needed from regulators, shipping companies and the recruitment sector to eliminate the practice and retain talented seafarers.

dr Christos Kontovas, lead author of the LJMU report, said the study sheds light on the disturbing reality that seafarers are subject to illegal fees and charges.

“These practices can trap seafarers in debt bondage, forcing them to endure exploitative and abusive working conditions,” said Dr. Kontovas. “However, what is really disheartening is that such practices damage the image of the maritime industry and lead to it being perceived as exploitative and unfair. This, in turn, can discourage aspiring seafarers from pursuing their dreams. We are currently evaluating strategies to curb these practices and want to help solve this extremely serious problem.”

Recommendations to address seafarer recruitment issues include better definitions of fees and charges, and more information and awareness-raising. The importance of financial literacy for seafarers and their families is also highlighted, with the WeCare Financial Literacy program providing money management tools to help manage income and expenses.

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