FOC SYSTEM AND SUBSTANDARD SHIPPING
Indian Ocean, South and East Africa Region
August 22nd 2002
Andrew M. Mwangura
P.O. BOX 92273
TEL: 254 011 312058
FAX: 254 011 230001
Article 94 of the United Nations convention on the Law of the sea (UNCLOS) states that every ship must sail under a national flag and the ship carries the nationality of the flag it flies. A ship's flag provides it the protection of a government while on the high seas.
The flag states are responsible for exercising effective jurisdiction and control in administration technical and social conditions on board their ships.
As the flags of convenience do not sit easily with current international maritime law of the sea (UNCLOS). It is high time for shipowner to reflag.
A part from being contrary to the UNCLOS the FOC System is against the wages, Hours of work and manning (sea) convention No. 109 and its accompanying recommendation No. 109 and the merchant shipping (minimum standards) convection No. 147, as well as the IMO's International Convection for the safety of life at sea (SOLAS) and the STCW'95 and Assembly resolution. A 481 (XII) on principles of safe manning adopted on 19th November, 1981 by the Assembly of the intergovernmental maritime consultative organization.
This document is the result of a field investigation at the port of Mombasa carried out over three-week period in August, 2002
The report was revised and endorsed by Mr. Ben Roxy Udogwu, Secretary ITF Africa region.
I would like to thank the many individuals and organizations who helped make this research possible. I am especial grateful to all the interviewees who provided invaluable assistance with field investigation in the port of Mombasa.
I would also like to thank the seafarers who told me their story, some of whom took great risks to speak to me. Concerns for their personal safety do not permit me to name them here.
In addition, a number of individuals and organisations in Kenya and elsewhere generously shared information and insights.
I am particularly indebted to colleagues from the Apostleship of the sea- Kenya, Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya Revenue Authority and Seafarers Assistance Program.
They like the other I have thanked here bear no responsibility for this document.
I take sole responsibility for the content of this document.
The document is dedicated to the memory of Capt. David Mugaula, Eng. Steven Kibergen; and Eng. Ali Mwachatamu Hassan - who lost their lives in the 1999 sinking of the Panamanian flagged MV ACOR near Capo Delgado , Mozambique.
Flags of Convenience/substandard shipping
A total of 2,442 Ocean going vessels with a big number of merchant mariners called the port of Mombasa in the year 2000 - 2001. Among them different types divided into: - Passenger ships, Combined passenger and Cargo ships, Dry general cargo ships, Dry Bulk Cargo Ships, Bulk Oil tankers, and Container ships. Others were warships, fishing vessels etc.
The top 6 flags considering the number of ships that have called Mombasa Port during the said period are Panama, Liberia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Malta, Bahamas and Cyprus.
Taking in account the gross registered tonnage of the ships that have called Mombasa Port over the last two years the Panamanian flag is at the first rank, followed by the Liberian flag. The Cypriot flag is coming in the 3rd position. For many years the Liberian register had the largest shipping fleet in the world in terms of tonnage.
In January last year (2001) Liberia accounted in tonnage for 35 percent of all the world's oil tankers. There are also a large number of bulk carriers, as well as a number of Liberian registered cruise ships.
With around 1,557 vessels registered under its flag, Liberia, one of the poorest countries in the world, currently has the world's second largest maritime fleet in shipping tonnage (52 million gross tonnage) after panama.
The conclusion one can draw out of this analysis is that vessels flying flags of convenience are substantially present in the port of Mombasa.
Most of the merchant vessels Local owned or managed (see appendix) are in involved in oil trade with a few carrying coast wise cargoes.
The owning companies prefer to have their ships which are substandard be registered in open registries mainly to avoid taxation in the country.
There are 17 shipping lines trading with East Africa of which 13 are members of the East Africa Europe Lines Conference and 4 are independent. A tough competition between the conference members and between the conference it self and the outsiders has caused serious problem to the Kenya National Shipping Line (KNSL).
In addition to the FOC System and the recent introduction of 3 more aggressive shipping lines Maersk Line, Global Container Line and Delmas rendered more complicated the position of KNSL in the market.
Although Kenya depends very much on maritime transport she does not operate or own ships at the national level or in the form of a national shipping line due in general to the new maritime economic order governed by globalisation and deregulation and the heavily presence of the local owned vessels flying flags of conveniences (FOC).. Flags of Shame.
Besides being working aboard sub- standard ships the Kenyan seafarers are over worked and under paid given that ratings earn between US$ 60 -200 and the engine and marine deck officers are paid between US$450 - 1,200.
Truly this is contrary to ILO Convention No.109 and recommendation 109. And those who work aboard the International Maritime Employers' Committee (IMEC) managed vessels earn between US$ 350 - 850 . This too is contrary to the IMEC / ITF agreement for AB wages - US$ 1,300.
The members of IMEC employ some 60,000 seafarers from 43 countries world wide. They include such well- known names as Maersk, Mobil, Chevron, Shell and Swire Pacific.
The presences of FOC System at the port of Mombasa does not only bring about the loss of job opportunities but, it has brought the loss of about Ksh. 692million annual from 24 Ocean - going vessels owned or managed by local shipping companies. Taking in account that one vessel of between 100 - 499 GRT (Gross Registered Tonnage) can cost upto Kshs. 2.6.million as tonnage fees. Un employment among the country's 5,000 seafarers stands at more than 80% - and the figure is set to grow further as a result of the new STCW '95 rules and the ISM Code.
In conclusion I suffice to say that there is an urgent need to promote measures to enhance the employment of African seafarers on board vessels practising cabotage along the Indian Ocean, South and East African region.
And in order to avoid social dumping, I beg to say that any vessel involved in the cabotage trade must recognise standards which have been agreed for vessels trading within the said region.
May I also propose that the ITF should develop an overall ITF cabotage Policy to give guidance and effect to the afore-mentioned principle in the region.
In order to meet international labour market challenges and ensure economic growth and social stability of this region, I strongly believe that there's also a need of proper and competent ITF Inspectorate as well as flag and port state control at the sea ports and harbours in the region.
LOCAL OWNED/ MANAGED VESSELS