Indian Ocean States Propose Union for Seafarers

By Swaleh Mdoe, The East African (Nairobi), 3 November 2000

Port Louis—A seminar held in Mauritius recently proposed the formation of a regional seafarers' welfare committee. The seven-day conference, which ended on October 13 in Port Louis, Mauritius, was convened to formulate ways of dealing with the problems faced by seamen in the region.

There have been numerous cases of mistreatment of seafarers by ship owners and their agents due to the lack of a strong union. The formation of the welfare committee is expected to improve their working conditions, especially when it comes to recruitment and compensation when owners abandon their vessels in foreign countries, leaving hundreds of crew members without basic human needs or money to go home.

The conference was funded by the International Shipping Federation and the International Trust Fund (ITF) and organised by the International Committee on Seafarers Welfare (ICSW). The proposed welfare comittee will have up to three representatives from each of the seven countries that attended the seminar.

Kenya was represented by Messrs John Attenborough, Richard Oyaro from the Mombasa-based Mission to Seamen, the secretary-general of the Kenya Seamen Union, Matano Chengo and Andrew Mwangura, an independent shipping researcher. Tanzania was represented by Mr. Lewis Cobbs of the Dar es Salaam Mission to Seamen and Captain Matage Nyamurasa of the Dar es Salaam Maritime Institute. The other countries were Reunion, Madagascar, Mozambique, Seychelles and host Mauritius.

The members of the welfare committee will be drawn from voluntary organisations, social bodies, ship owners and seafarers themselves, in accordance with International Labour Organisation guidelines.

Sources who attended the conference told the The EastAfrican that the committee will, inter alia, develop a formal work programme for review and endorsement by the ICSW and ITF Seafarers Trust. It will include topics such as training, information technology and communications.

Mr. Jean Vacher of Mauritius was proposed as the regional programme co- ordinator of the first phase. His name will be passed to the ICSW and ITF Seafarers Trust for endorsement.