Labour breaches found on half of ships in Belgian ports

A survey in Antwerp and Zeebrugge ports showed that half of the ships had breaches in their labour contracts, according to Christian trade union ACV. 

Port magazine Flows reports on Tuesday that the list of breaches is “concerning for safety”, especially as rest times are being falsified. The checks, carried out by ACV and the International Transport Workers Federation, looked at both car and container ships. 

“At the end of August and the beginning of September, we checked 25 ships with 32 crew,” ACV spokesperson Christian Roos said. “Not a single ship was completely in order. On half the ships, labour contracts weren’t in order. No collective labour agreement terms or dates had been laid down, for example.” ACV did not identify any very serious breaches, meaning none of the ships had to be taken out of service. 

Crew rest hours on a ship must be officially recorded. “Previous studies have shown that a lot of adjustments are made to records,” Roos said. “People try to stay in line with international legislation by falsifying their records.” He saw adjustments on 13 of the 25 vessels checked. 

"In one case, a person had been on board for 11 months"

On eight ships, wages were found not to have been paid in full but deferred to a subsequent month. Most of the ships that were checked were flying the flags of Panama, Liberia, Malta or Madeira, known as “flag of convenience” states. Flag of convenience is a business practice in which a ship’s owners register a merchant ship in a country other than their own, often to bypass regulations or reduce costs. 

On four ships, staff had been on board for too long and the maximum contract duration had been exceeded. The ACV team had several people disembarked. “The shipping companies readily went along with this,” said Roos. “In one case, a person had been on board for 11 months.”

Finally, one ship in three had problems in the galley with rotten vegetables, empty refrigerators and mould. Roos has called for stricter controls to ensure ships passing through Belgium’s ports are in line with regulations. 


#FlandersNewsService | Illustration picture shows a ship at the Kieldrecht sea lock in the port of Antwerp, 2017 © BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM

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