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Illegal manning agencies accused of exposing sailors to great harm

Even in the best of circumstances, working aboard a ship can have its dangers. So, one would hope that, here in the United States and throughout the world, all companies involved in the maritime industry would stay away from conduct that could expose maritime workers to even greater risks of harm. All sailors deserve as safe and respectful of a workplace as possible.

There are many types of companies involved in the maritime industry beyond just companies that own and operate vessels. One such type of company are maritime employment agencies. These companies are involved in the staffing of a wide range of different types of commercial vessels across the globe.

Many maritime employment agencies operate in a proper and appropriate manner. Unfortunately, there are also manning companies that skirt existing laws or operate out-and-out illegally.

A wide variety of different misconduct allegations have been leveled in regards to the conduct of illegal manning companies towards maritime workers in countries like the Philippines. A recent New York Times article that focused on illegal manning agencies gave the story of a worker from the Philippines who went into maritime work through a manning agency who ended up dying. It also discussed the different types of wrongdoing that have been alleged in relation to illegal manning agencies. Among the things illegal manning agencies have been accused of are:

  • Deceptive recruiting practices, such as lying and making false promises.
  • Lying to workers about what wages they will be paid.
  • Failing to pay workers.
  • Being connected to human trafficking.
  • Exposing workers to abusive and violent situations.
  • Assigning workers to vessels with poor safety records.
  • Assigning workers to vessels where working conditions are poor and they are exposed to things like beatings.

These allegations raise serious questions regarding what impacts illegal manning agencies are having on the health, safety and overall wellbeing of maritime workers.

Currently, regulation levels regarding maritime employment agencies are pretty low. Do you think there should be stronger regulation of these companies? What effects do you think stiffened regulation of these companies worldwide would have?

What impacts do you think illegal manning agencies are having on the maritime industry as a whole? What do you think should be done about such agencies?

Source: The New York Times, "Tricked and Indebted on Land, Abused or Abandoned at Sea," Ian Urbina, Nov. 9, 2015

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