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PIL calls for tougher action to curb exploitation of seafarers

Fri, Feb 12, 2016
Carrier has adopted strict manning procedures to ensure full compliance with the Maritime Labour Convention

(source:  Lloyd’s List)
Pacific International Lines is calling for the shipping industry to take tougher measures to prevent the exploitation of seafarers, especially during the recruitment process.
“We feel that the shipping industry and the relevant countries need to take more stern action to prevent exploitation of seafarers,” PIL executive director for fleet division Teo Choo Wee told Lloyd’s List. Mr Teo emphasised that PIL does not condone profiteering from employment contracts of seafarers.
To minimise the occurrence of such a practice, one measure that can be put in place and which PIL has adopted is the recruitment of seafarers through the head office as much as possible, Mr Teo said in a recent interview.
PIL has also set up manning offices in domicile countries of many prospective seafarers such as the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
Moreover, PIL adheres to a strict process of appointing people to these manning offices and many of them rose from the ranks of PIL, Mr Teo added.
Singapore-based PIL said it is fully compliant with the International Labour Organisation’s Maritime Labour Convention 2006,  widely known as the seafarers’ bill of rights. PIL operates about 150 vessels and each has been issued an MLC certificate.
In countries where the MLC has been ratified, manning agencies offering recruitment services must not charge seafarers for finding them work, according to the London-headquartered International Transport Workers Federation, whose members include around 700 unions representing more than 4.5m transport workers from some 150 countries.
Singapore was the first Asian country to ratify the MLC. With the ratification in June 2011, Singapore committed to apply the convention’s provisions to Singapore-registered ships and ships that call at its ports, as well as to achieve decent working conditions for seafarers.
The MLC, which sets out the minimum standards and fair working conditions for seafarers worldwide, was adopted in February 2006 and it entered into force — that is, it became a binding international law — on August 20, 2013.
“A lot of credit goes to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore with regards to the successful implementation of the MLC,” PIL assistant general manager for quality, safety and security Nanda Kyaw Min said.
The MPA has been “actively working on the MLC tripartite working group and this ensures the continued review of the MLC”, Capt Nanda added.
The MPA chairs the MLC tripartite working group, whose partners include the Singapore Maritime Officers Union, Singapore Organisation of Seamen, the Singapore Shipping Association and the Singapore Maritime Employers Federation.
The MLC has been ratified by 70 International Labour Organisation member states, representing more than 80% of the world’s gross tonnage of ships, according to the ILO database.
The Special Tripartite Committee, established in accordance with MLC 2006 to “keep the working of this convention under continuous review”, has set a second meeting at the ILO in Geneva on February 8-10, 2016.
In Indonesia, which has yet to ratify the MLC, PIL also ensures that its manning office is in compliance with all the MLC requirements, according to Capt Nanda.
PIL’s manning offices have secured the required licences and most have obtained ISO certification, Capt Nanda said, adding that an annual audit of these offices is being conducted to ensure compliance with requirements.
PIL employs 3,500 seafarers and has a 600-strong workforce in Singapore. On board PIL’s vessels, the master runs a crew welfare fund committee. “The MLC formalised the good practices which we have always implemented on board our vessels,” Mr Teo said.
PIL is the world’s 19th-biggest container shipping line, according to the latest data from Alphaliner. It is one of the first few shipping companies to provide a link from Asia and the Middle East to Africa. 
It also offers feeder container services and regular break-bulk services to Africa from the Far East and tramping services to and from Southeast Asian ports.
The shipping line recently ordered 12 vessels of 11,800 teu capacity from Yangzijiang Shipbuilding, to be delivered from 2017 to 2018, Mr Teo said. “If you look at our ordering history, we have not ordered for slightly more than two years and we have no new ship deliveries this year.”
“Enhancing the skill set of seafarers is important to us so we put them into training. With the new fleet that is coming, we send them for courses and simulation for handling of bigger ships,” Mr Teo said. Aside from officers, ratings are also provided training in courses such as crane simulation.
Capt Nanda said that PIL has a more than 90% retention rate of its seafaring workforce. “We take care of the welfare of our seafarers. We make sure they are part of the family and they take pride in being part of the PIL family,” Mr Teo said.
“Shipping is not in the best of times now, but despite that we pay attention to details and I think our seafarers appreciate that.”
Currently, PIL has not laid up any of its vessels and has no plans to cut manpower. PIL is even likely to increase its headcount as it seeks to take back 20 ships it had outsourced to third-party managers earlier on, Mr Teo said.
Mr Teo added that the PIL “probably just broke even” in 2015 but he is optimistic that “in the second half there will be improvement” in the container shipping sector.
“At PIL, we run a very tight ship. Despite the market, we still think of getting positive results,” Mr Teo commented when asked about his outlook on the sector.
PIL has no near-term plans for a public offering of its shares, Mr Teo said when queried about whether the privately held company has intentions to go