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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 106 (Suppl.-I), April 2008



Current Situation of the Maritime World


David Cockroft

General Secretary

International Transport Workers’ Federation – ITF


International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF)

  • Global union federation for transport workers
  • 600 unions, 5 million transport workers
  • Seafarers, Fisheries, Inland Navigation, Road, Rail, Civil Aviation and Tourism Services
  • 230 seafarers unions representing 700,000 members

Aims of the ITF

  • Organise solidarity between unions
  • Represent transport workers to decision-making bodies, alongside governments and employers
  • Provide information, education and assistance to strengthen the position of ITF affiliated unions
  • Post Durban Congress, ‘Organising Globally’

ITF Maritime Activities

  • FOC Campaign                      

              - ILO MLC, 2006

  • POC Campaign

  • Fisheries

              - ILO Work in Fisheries, 2007?

  • Seafarers’ Trust

Current Challenges

  • Isolation and job security
  • Stress and criminalisation
  • Security issues and denial of shore leave
  • Safety and health problems, incl. Fatigue
  • Abandonment
  • Abusive practices in fisheries

Seafarers’ Welfare Study

Commissioned by the ITF Seafarers’ Trust:

  • To assess the current welfare needs of seafarers
  • To inform Trust decision making processes when awarding grants to new projects
  • To contribute to knowledge base on current conditions in the industry

Seafarers’ Welfare Study

  • 4,185 questionnaires to seafarers
  •             - 3,792 returned
  • 112 interviews with seafarers
  • 200 survey questionnaires to owners and managers – 86 returned
  • 52 semi-structured interviews with owners / managers

Key Outcomes

  • Seafarers’ priorities: communication and transport to facilities
  • Of declining importance: organised sightseeing, sports facilities, meeting local people, reading room, video/book exchange, onshore accommodation


  • Dominance of economic pressures
  • Trend in dehumanising the job
  • Reduced manning levels
  • Faster turnarounds in port
  • Long terms of voyage
  • Increased pressure (criminalisation)
  • Problems in accessing facilities

Shore Leave

  • 64% of respondents to the survey had not had shore leave during the previous eight weeks
  • 36% who had had shore leave during the period said their leave lasted for 2 hours on average
  • Compares with 57% satisfied with shore leave in 1996 MORI survey

Seafarers’ Welfare Workers

  • 72% said they had not seen any seafarers’ welfare worker onboard during their current contract
  • Majority of seafarers would like to have contact with a welfare workers – main reasons given: for information about the local area and for personal counselling
  • 70% would like to have a welfare worker sailing on their vessels from time to time

Life at Sea

Seafarers descriptions of their life:

‘being in prison’, ‘isolated’, ‘lonely’, ‘a sacrifice’ to provide better conditions for loved ones

What they would like:

Free transport to welfare facilities, information about ports where they call, balanced application of ISPS, improved communication facilities 


  • Over the lift of the Trust, AoS has received over £9 million in grants for use in more than 280 different projects
  • Importance of co-operation and partnership with other agencies
  • Welcome commitment to maritime welfare, look forward to more long-term maritime ministry initiatives