Our research provides insights into the challenges frequently faced by seafarers. We have reports of port officials engaging in a variety of corrupt practices which include demands for facilitation gifts, theft of provisions, demands for cash payments, theft of brass fittings and equipment and fraud in relation to the supply of fuel, known as bunkers,
...said Professor Sampson, who is based in the University’s School of Social Sciences.
One seafarer spoke of his crew being forced to resort to food rationing between ports, while another described seeing a supervisor hand over money from his own pocket, fearing a delay to their schedule might cause him to lose his job.
There are ports where cigarettes and alcohol are so important that sometimes the pilot boat will refuse to come alongside unless you have a man on the deck waving the cartons for them to take. So that’s a lot of pressure. It causes a lot of discomfort and it causes enough discomfort for grown men to shed tears. We feel powerless. It’s very degrading,
...one seafarer said.
Researchers have also been told of incidents where vital safety equipment on board is compromised by thefts of brass fittings.
There are certain ports we go to, where we’ve identified theft is quite high. So, before we arrive, we go around the ship, we remove all those brass fittings so they can’t be taken away. It makes you nervous and worried. We’re trained to deal with fires but we’re not firefighters, so having the safety critical equipment taken away from you because of pilfering leads to that extra stress,
...another seafarer said.
These first-hand testimonies are a continuation of research led by Professor Helen Sampson of the Seafarers International Research Centre (SIRC) and are included in a film to raise awareness of their plight.
In these circumstances, seafarers fear being blamed, and potentially sacked, by their companies for any negative outcomes arising from their refusal to meet the demands of port personnel. As a result, they may resort to disbursing their own personal cash or ‘raiding’ the welfare funds which are provided for recreational equipment on board,
...said Professor Sampson.
In this regard, it is important that port officials start to appreciate that they are not engaged in a victimless crime when they make demands for money and provisions from seafarers or when they steal from their vessels, she noted.
It is also important that employers understand the position of seafarers in these situations and the desperate measures they resort to as a result of being placed in an impossible position. I hope our research will help improve the lives of the many seafarers that are affected by these issues.
Last year, MACN launched a survey to gain a better insight to the issues regarding improper demands in the ports of Ukraine.
This will be used as a base to develop a targeted long-term collaborative action plan to fight corruption in the Black Sea region, focusing on Ukraine.