Black Sea action to target ‘sea of shame’

10 May 2013

The ITF and its affiliated maritime unions in Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine will be exposing substandard working conditions and fighting for improved safety in what they have described as the ‘Black Sea of shame’, next week, from 13 to 15 May.

The Black Sea is one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a seafarer, and is the focus of an intensive ITF campaign to increase safety and drive up standards. This action is the latest move in that campaign, and will involve joint inspection teams made up of ITF inspectors and union activists visiting ships in Black Sea ports.

There are around 2,400 vessels working the Black Sea, many of which are over 20 years of age, and around 800 are over 30 years old. The shipping market is characterised by ancient vessels moving low value goods, with rock bottom and unpaid wages where sinkings are not uncommon, and the risk of death and injury is deemed to be part of the job. This week’s action will seek to expose such unacceptable conditions and bring them to the attention of the public and governments – to put them on notice that things will have to change with the coming into force on 20 August 2013 of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.

ITF acting general secretary Steve Cotton commented: “Some of the worst ships in the world are to be found plying the Black Sea. Work conditions are often shameful and safety non-existent. The human cost is enormous.”

He continued:  “This event is intended to shine a light on malpractice and make seafarers aware of their rights and how to exercise them under the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.”

The ITF and its unions in the Black Sea littoral states launched a campaign to tackle the often  woeful standards of shipping in the area last year. (See here for details. They also released the report Black Sea of Shame, which details a litany of abuse, accidents and sinkings, allied with a lack of P&I cover and non-payment or delayed payment of wages.

The report stated that: ‘The severe impact of a substandard industry on seafarers and their families cannot be underestimated. The intentional non-payment of wages amounts to a situation of bonded labour or slavery and should be unthinkable in the 21st Century. … As the entry into force of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 comes ever closer, the situation in the ‘Black Sea of Shame’ can no longer be tolerated.’

Black Sea of Shame can be downloaded at

For more information contact ITF press officer, Sam Dawson.
Direct line: + 44 (0)20 7940 9260.

International Transport Workers’ Federation – ITF:
ITF House, 49 – 60 Borough Road, London SE1 1DS
Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7403 2733
Fax: + 44 (0) 20 7375 7871