The Flag of Convenience Action Week has commenced at Kochi Port on Monday highlighting the danger posed by FOC vessels to the seafarers.

The action week, which will conclude on Friday, is part of the ongoing global campaign by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) particularly in Indian and Sri Lankan ports to control the menace of substandard shipping.

Thomas Sebastian, ITF Inspector, said that seafarers and Dockers union such as Cochin Port Staff Association, National Union of Seafarers of India, Forward Seamen Union of India, Maritime Union of India are joining hands to fight against continued growth of FOC vessels.

He was of the view that a co-ordinated action of various stakeholders like Port State Control, crewing agents, port authorities and trade unions can effectively control the menace of substandard shipping and establish minimum labour standard on board vessels.

Besides, the operators of Global Network Terminals can be compelled to respect basic human to trade union rights, he said.

During the Week of Action, select activists of the participating unions will inspect all FOC vessels berthed at Kochi Port including the ICTT at Vallarpadam and respective companies of these vessels will be asked to sign ITF acceptable agreements.

A FOC ship is the one which files the Flag of a country other than the country of the ownership. Ship owners use FOC registers for many reasons like cheap registration fees and low or no taxes at all. FOC registers also enable ship owners to employee a non-unionised workforce on poor salary and service conditions.

The ITF believes that there should be a genuine link between the owner of a vessel and the flag the vessel flies as stipulated in the United National Conventions on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In case of FOC’s, genuine link does not exist, he said.

(This article was published on December 10, 2012)
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