2,000 Ghanaian Seafarers To Lose Jobs
From Richard Attenkah, Tema
Over 2,000 Ghanaian seafarers working with European shipping companies are likely to lose their jobs by August this year, if the government of Ghana refuses to enter into the appropriate Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with European countries, which have reflagged their vessels to European Union (EU) flags.
Another reason is the government’s refusal to ratify two major international maritime conventions that would make it possible for Ghanaian seafarers to be accepted in countries that have reflagged their vessels to the EU flags.
The two major international maritime conventions are the International Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006) and the Standards of Training, Certification and Watch-Keeping (STCW ’78 as amended) 2010 Manila amendment.
This was disclosed by Ing. Sigis Buckman, General Secretary of the Ghana Merchant Navy Officers’ Association (GMNOA), at a press conference at Tema on Friday.
He appealed to the government to do whatever it takes to ensure that it acts speedily to prevent this huge number of Ghanaians seafarers from being sent back home for non-compliance and ratification of the relevant international maritime conventions.
Ing. Buckman stated: “Hitherto, Ghanaian seafarers were allowed to work on European-owned ships, which were registered under flags of convenience such as Panama, Liberia and Cyprus.
“But currently, some countries in the European Union have instituted liberal tax regimes for their ship owners, which has encouraged and attracted several European ship owners to reflag their vessels back to EU flags.
“The result is that with our government’s failure to enter into separate individual MoUs with participating European countries, Ghanaian seafarers can no longer work on European-owned ships that have been reflagged to EU flags.”
Addressing the press conference, the GMNOA General Secretary said the government must initiate agreements with countries such as Malta, Portugal and Netherlands within the next few weeks, to safeguard the employment avenues for Ghanaian seafarers.
Also, the government must to ratify the International Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006), which deals with international maritime labour issues, scheduled to come into force by August this year, he explained.
According to him, the convention, once it comes into force, would affect all seafarers who have been employed on all vessels in any part of the world, and have a very negative impact on Ghana’s ability to supply seafarers to the global market.
Ing. Buckman observed that even though Ghana had already signed the STCW convention, it was yet to ratify the STCW 2010 Manila amendment, which is aimed at making the convention and code up to date, and also address new issues in this area.
“Some parts of the convention have already come into force since January 2013, and the implication is that Ghana is yet to issue documents which comply with the requirements under the Manila amendment,” he said.
According to Ing. Buckman, they were not asking the government to find jobs for them, because since the demise of the local shipping lines 25 years ago, they have been looking for jobs themselves.
“Our demand is for the government to do the needful, to enable the Ghanaian seafarers to continue to compete favorably on the international maritime labour market, and to be able to contribute towards the economic development of our dear country,” he explained.
He claimed that the government’s refusal to enter into the appropriate MoU with the relevant European shipping companies, and also ratify the applicable international maritime conventions as mentioned above, would not only affect the seafarers, but also the national economy, as they would not be able to send foreign remittances back home, as they have been doing.
He disclosed: “Locally, a report from one of our major local recruitment agencies also shows that 24 Ghanaian seafarers earn and remit around US$70,000 a month, which translates into around US$800,000 annually.
“We appeal to the government to consider partnering with the stakeholder organisations to establish the necessary systems that will enable Ghana to train and supply about 50,000 seafarers in the next five years, to the international maritime labour market, which has the potential of remitting about $2 billion annually into the Ghanaian economy.”
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