A research report and survey conducted by UK’s Liverpool John Moores University, in cooperation with The Mission to Seafarers (MtS), who sponsored this research, under the title “Survey on Fees and Charges for Seafarer Recruitment or Placement”, shows the extent of illegal recruitment fees and charges being levied on seafarers, in violation of the Maritime Labour Convention.
The report shines a light on instances in which seafarers are being forced into paying illegal fees and charges and their impact on seafarers and the industry that can be significant and can lead to a range of negative consequences.
The stress and financial strain of paying illegal fees can take a toll on seafarers’ mental health, limit their career opportunities, and lead to loss of trust in the shipping industry.
The questionnaire survey was designed in co-operation with The Mission to Seafarers (MtS), who sponsored this study, and the Institute of Human Rights and Business (IHRB).
A total of 210 valid answers was gathered and were used in this analysis. Most of the respondents came from the Philippines (25.24%), India (21.90%) and Sri Lanka (9.52%).
In their responses, most of the seafarers (almost 92%) indicated a great level of concern about these illegal practices and believed these should stop. In fact, 64.8% of the seafarers who participated in the questionnaire acknowledged that they were aware of these corrupt demands (stating that it had either happened to them or their colleagues).
Approximately 21.43% of respondents reported that they had been asked to pay recruitment or placement fees. In terms of the country where the demand for fees was made, India topped the list (35.5% of cases), followed by the Philippines (13.3%) and Myanmar (11.1%). It is worth noting that 28.26% of Indian seafarers who completed the survey reported that they had paid a fee.
The results of the survey showed that 57.8% of the respondents reported that the crewing agent appointed by the shipping company requested the fees, 11.1% said that the request came from an employee of the shipping company, while 31.1% pointed to an individual with links to the crewing agent or the shipping company.
The amount of money demanded varied from as low as $50-100 to a maximum of around $7,500, with the average being $1,872.
Seafarers were also asked if they were familiar with the procedure to file a complaint against recruitment fees, corrupt demands, or unlawful retention of their documents.
“Surprisingly, 35.7% replied that they do not know the procedure to file a complaint. This is alarming considering that the MLC requires each Member State to ensure that ships flying its flag have on board complaint procedures in place to handle seafarer complaints regarding breaches of the convention’s requirements, including seafarers’ rights,” the report highlights.
Furthermore, 29% of the survey respondents also indicated that they had experienced the retention of some of their documents by the hiring company or the recruiting agent during the recruitment/placement process.
“Our aim with this survey was, mainly, to examine whether seafarers are being demanded, directly or indirectly, any of the above fees/costs,” as it is noted in the survey.
Image credit: The Mission To Seafarers