WMU Culture of Adjustment Report Furthers Discussions on Seafarer Work Hours Compliance

Findings of the World Maritime University (WMU) Culture of Adjustment Report were the focus of a Nautilus International Webinar that took place on 5 March. Released in November 2020, the WMU research underlines systemic failures in the implementation of the regulatory regime for seafarers’ hours of work and rest. The ITF Seafarers’ Trust provided financial support for the independent research by WMU that highlights a Culture of Adjustment prompting seafarers to underreport working hours to protect their ships and their jobs. 

Moderated by Lloyd’s List Chief Correspondent, Richard Clayton, the webinar brought together high-level speakers to address the inconsistencies in implementation of rest/work hours regulations, and what Mr Clayton referred to as “the culture adjustment of an industry.” 

Dr Cleopatra Doubmia-Henry, President of WMU, noted that there are many Registries that have to date not yet implemented the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 into their legislation, which means that the issue of hours of work and rest has not been addressed. She emphasized that the onus of compliance cannot be on seafarers who are working on short term contracts and fear ramifications for reporting non-compliance concerning work hours of work and rest. Port State Control (PSC) can support the enforcement of the regulations. However, she stated that  responsibility lies with flag States who are required to ensure that the hours of work and rest are respected. She added that a joint campaign between the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) regarding implementation would serve the industry well and protect seafarers as “key workers”.

The lead investigator for the research, Dr Raphael Baumler, WMU Professor and Head of Maritime Safety and Administration, said the “normalization of deviance” in reporting work and rest hours is of great concern, but he maintained that the problem runs deeper. He said, “It’s a systematic failure. From ship crew to regulators to shipping companies, everyone is closing their eyes to this problem.” He put forward the question of how can we create and generate feedback that is accurate to improve safety? 

Head of Seafarer Safety and Health at the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Julie Carlton, agreed the problem needs to be tackled from all angles. She suggested her agency would review the report against the guidance they have for surveyors as it provided useful insights as to what causes the adjustment of records. She emphasized the need to promote a safety culture and that the minimum hours of rest are the minimum, but not the norm. 

Katie Higginbottom, Chief Executive of the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, said that a key aspect going forward will be to maintain the conversation and develop strategies based on recommendations provided in the report. She concurred with Professor Baumler that a logical starting point would be PSC MoUs to get agreement around a common approach and potential solutions like the checklist provided in the report that is an indicator of non-compliance. 

Nautilus International General Secretary, Mark Dickinson, said he was determined this report does not gather dust on a shelf. “This has to represent a line in the sand. We have to do something about this problem,” he said. 

To access the Culture of Adjustment Report, click here.

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