Seafarers

Since old days, many maritime nations have have made it a deliberate policy to train seafarers for ‘export’. Funds remitted home by such seamen to their families provides these maritime nations with valuable contribution to their balance of payments. Types of crews supplied by agencies varies accord­ing to what the owner wants. British officers are still preferred by the larger United Kingdom operators who largely seek to achieve their savings in no longer having to make social security contributions and being able to close down their own personnel departments. Other shipowners are quite happy with crews of quite different nationalities and this can bring its own problems. The first, naturally, is one of finding a common language. Care must particularly be taken with crews of mixed nationality. Many of these crews are recruited from the Asian areas where religions and customs vary widely. Apart from the possibility of any natural antipathy between certain races these ethnic differences often have a particular impact on the type and preparation of food which must be sympathetically catered for. It must be stressed that an off-shore flag, even a flag of convenience, is not automatically bad. There are no bad flags, only bad shipowners. Some of the most respected names in shipowning have found flagging-out the only way to survive. All the traditional seafaring nations have well-established maritime trade unions which have negotiated with the employers, usually on a national basis. There are some who say that the unions’ very successes have contributed in part to the moves towards ‘flagging-out’. Be that as it may, one can well understand the dismay of maritime unions as progressively more devices are found to enable ship-ow­ners and managers to avoid hard-won conditions. The problem inevitably lies with the wide variations in both the cost and the standard of living in the developed western nations as compared with, say, the Philippines. For people from such a country, a wage far below that of a western seaman can be a fortune in contrast to that which his compatriots ashore are being paid.