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What a sailor has to know before embarking
  • Written by Oksana Pastukh, Informational Rescource Center “Legal Space”
  • Published in  Success stories
Lecture for future sailors in Odessa Lecture for future sailors in Odessa

Sailor’s work is considered to be prestigious. Every year thousands of young graduates leave Marine educational institutions of Mykolaiv, Odessa, and Kherson. They dream of joining the sailors’ brotherhood, travel around the world and receive high salaries for their hard work. However, they do not realize what kind of dangers they may encounter. Sometimes even experienced sailors are left without money and support, alone in a foreign country, abandoned by their captain or employer.

In 2009, 24 Ukrainian sailors from “Ariana” ship were detained as hostages by Somalian pirates. During all the time, families and friends of sailors tried to help them to return home. After that challenge, a lot of people realized how important it is to have legal means and legal information and try to prevent such situations. “Assol” fund was created in Odessa to help Ukrainian sailors. During four years, “Assol” helped more than 3000 sailors that got into difficult situation and required legal support. Main issues were arrested ships, unlawful contracts, unpaid salaries, and even captivity.

“Assol” fund was supported by International Renaissance Foundation and starting from 1 February 2013 opened a new project: “prevention of problems that arise after the abandonment of ships and how to help sailors in this situation”. It is really a specific issue. During the financial crisis, more and more ships are abandoned by their owners. Accordingly to the Abandonment of Seafarers database International Labor Organization, more than 140 ships were abandoned in 2011.

Maksym Kocherzhenko, lawyer, explains to students the importance of carefully reading the contract and turn their attention to articles that need discussion

Sailors are often put into difficult situations. They are often victims of modern “slavery”. They have no legal or social protection, they are left without means of survival in foreign harbors, they cannot return home… It is clearly a violation of fundamental human rights, of Ukrainian Constitution.

All these questions were studied by “Assol” lawyers who tried to not only raise sailors’ legal knowledge but to also initiate changes to the legislation on a national level. Several institutions took part in this project: 6 diplomatic institutions, 5 specialized educational institutions, 2 European law firms. 350 recruitment agencies were monitored in Odessa, Mykolaiv, Kherson regions. The results of the monitoring were reported to the Ministry of social policy and the Ministry of foreign affairs.

During the work of the legal center of “Assol” fund, more than 300 sailors turned for help. Their main issues were boats left by their owners and unpaid salaries. Last year “Assol” helped 48 sailors to get back home and successfully reclaimed salaries of 182 sailors. Thanks to “Assol’ lawyers, 13 sailors detained in foreign prisons were freed.

The project aims at raising the sailors’ legal knowledge and culture. A leaflet with practical advices entitled “How to act when the boat is left by the owner. Recommendations to the crew” has been developed and spread among sailors.

Information is power!

The main focus of the project: legal information and education; spread of useful informational materials. It is important to provide future sailors relevant information about their labor rights. Heads of Marines educational institutions also have to realize that their students need more information about their future employment in order to be protected. A sailor has to know even before embarkment what he has to do if he happens to be in an ad hoc situation. Young sailors, who have just graduated, need this information even more. The beginning of a career should be protected by all legal means. And a lot of young sailors do not know their rights and obligations. More often is that they have to learn them the hard way, when their rights are already being violated. To restore these rights, a lot of resources have to be spent. The main issues for sailors are: unpaid work, refusal of repatriation, injuries, sickness and death on board, disappearance of sailors in open sea…

We all wish for our sailors to have a safe journey, to work without problems and for the families to be reassured. That’s why “Assol” fund stresses the importance of legal consultations before signing a contract and embarking. Sailors have to minimize their risks and listen to lawyer’s advice.

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