“Vessels that do not meet such standards, including standards for the welfare and treatment of crew, pose an increased risk to seafarers, safe operations and the marine environment,” Allan Schwartz, AMSA Ship Safety Division.
August 29th 2014 the Australian Maritime Safety Agency/AMSA issued a banning order to Vega Auriga, a German-owned container vessel. The vessel was detained by AMSA on 3 occasions since July 25th with all concerning welfare of crew; improper payment of wages, living and working conditions along with inadequate maintenance. However, as important as these issues are there are, logically other criteria that can get your vessel banned and knowing them as well as their counter-measures is beneficial to continue your operations at sea.
Australian ports are not the only ones to ban certain vessels as there also exist bans in Venice and Paris MoU regions along with a number of international ports in UAE, USA and some parts of Europe. According to opening stages of research online, the first reasons why vessels get banned mainly involve it breaking certain laws and conventions established by local authorities. Firstly, all categories of vessels have potential to be banned; from fishing and cruise vessels to container ships which leads to the first step to avoid ban of your vessel; crew and vessel awareness.
Human rights are a persistent, hot-button issue in every sphere; including maritime and thus demands more attention. This issue is delicate as a single misstep would cause an unrest among crew. Starting with the salary issue that caused the Vega Auriga to be banned, the average satisfactory salary according to the International Labour Organisation/ILO can be broken down into the following figures and situations.
Combining solutions to salary and working hours, the optimal schedule as agreed with the ILO, is as follows. Seafarers, for starters should work 8 hours per day, 48 per week and 208 per month with a leave of no less than 30 calendar days after a year’s service; creating a leave pay that equals basic monthly wage divided by 30×2.5. Overtime rate should be compensated on hourly basis 1.25xbasic hourly rate; basic wage divided by 208 while work done on holidays and public holidays should be recorded and signed by the seafarer.
As agree by ILO in 31/12/2013 the minimum monthly wages should be 585$ USD.
2.5 days leave per month-47.33$
104 hours overtime per month-355.00$
8 hours compensatory leave for public holidays-27.31$
Assuming the salary calculations were implemented and seafarers are now receiving adequate pay which leads to the next issue on ships; seafarers’ living and working conditions. Examples of such vessels are usually under the FOC/ Flags of Convenience campaign who avoid labour regulations and pay minimal wages while forcing long work hours; most attractive to ship-owners. FOC vessels have a negative reputation as political campaigns against them as well as ideas that terrorist organisations can also use such vessels hints towards an idea that such vessels can also be banned from certain ports. In order to meet standard maintenance and create proper working conditions/risk-assessment checks must be conducted in order to equip and deploy workers of appropriate skill, experience and physical criteria. Seafarers should wear protective gear when completing dangerous tasks onboard.
On a more geopolitical matter, vessels can be banned depending on their origin and final destination; especially with the current Ebola epidemic which caused ports in Abidjan to ban vessels coming from affected countries; such quarantines are placed in Chinese ports as well. Though this ban was lifted on the 14th of August and no guaranteed ways of bypassing this ban are present; it is worth knowing a few things.
Firstly, if a banned vessel is re-bought and re-flagged, the ban still persists regardless of changes made to the vessel; demanding a new vessel altogether and leading to a possible procedure; conversion. An example of this is Ore Fabrica owned by Vale which was converted to a transit vessel to avert a ban in China. However, this rule only worked due to the ship being made for cargo which can be transferred to smaller vessels; though this can also work for passenger vessels as well.
So far, according to some research and some brainstorming it is visible that most organisations ban certain vessels for reasons that all unify with a purpose to protect their parents. Low-maintenance and poor conditioned vessels get banned not only due to human rights violations but also for abundance of terrorist vessels which are temporarily used by organisations for their own agenda; banning of such vessels shields port authorities from liability. Same idea of protection from physical threats and liability applies to most vessels sailing from areas of epidemic infection as Ebola is highly contagious and responsibility for the exposure would be given to port authorities. Banning of a vessel therefore, is a challenging matter to bypass and may even borderline on ethical violations but occasionally a ban can be avoided with simple changes to a vessel such as better maintenance and treatment of crew; mutually benefiting all parties.