[Speech] Merchant Shipping Act and the Stranded Hanjin Crew

SPEECH DURING THE 2ND READING OF THE MERCHANT SHIPPING ACT (AMDT) BILL

Mdm Speaker, I rise in support of the Bill. However, I wish to raise two issues with regards to this Bill. First,

A) Whether the financial security system provides abandoned seafarers with direct access, sufficient coverage and expedited financial assistance?

The amendments have treated the abandonment scenarios envisioned in the MLC amendments as scenarios where shipowners are required to repatriate the seafarer. I have several questions.

Do the amendments allow the seafarer to tap on the contract of insurance or financial security to “provide direct access, sufficient coverage and expedited financial assistance” in scenarios of abandonment as envisioned by the amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention?

Hanjin
Source: Moon Kwon-Do/BBC

Can the contract of insurance be tapped on to pay for “necessary maintenance and support” of the seafarer (e.g. adequate food, accommodation, drinking water supplies, essential fuel for survival on board the ship and necessary medical care) when the seafarer has not been provided with such necessary maintenance and support by the shipowner?

and

Can the contract of insurance be tapped on to pay outstanding wages to the seafarer when the seafarer has not been paid wages for more than 2 months?

Second,

B) Whether it is possible for seafarers to tap on the contract of insurance or financial security when ship has been arrested or where the shipowner is under receivership?

The Shipping industry has been squeezed on both the supply and demand sides: too many vessels, not enough scrapped, while global trade has slowed down. The Baltic Dry index, a measure of freight rates for bulk carriers that carry commodities like coal and iron ore, has plummeted by 95% since its peak in 2008.

Even oil tankers are suffering. Container lines are now also in particularly bad shape.

Sending a container from Shanghai to Europe costs half what it did in 2014, according to figures from the Chinese city’s shipping exchange. More ship owners are expected to run into difficulties.

For example, the stranded crew of Hanjin Rome, owned by the bankrupt Hanjin Shipping Company – had sat off the eastern coast of Singapore. The vessel was placed under court arrest here on Aug 29 after German ship owner Rickmers filed a civil claim for money it says it is owed by Hanjin.

Source: NTUC This Week

According to the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore, once a ship is arrested, anything that enters or leaves the ship has to be approved by the Supreme Court, including change of crew.

Crew members would have to apply for permission from the Supreme Court to be repatriated.

In an arrested ship, at least half the number of officers, engineers and crew (or watchmen/security guards) must be onboard at all times to meet the minimum manning requirement.

In the case where the ship has been arrested and where seafarers on board have not been provided “necessary maintenance and support (including adequate food, accommodation, drinking water supplies, essential fuel for survival on board the ship and necessary medical care)”, would the seafarers be able to tap on the financial security system to seek financial assistance in this regard?

In the case where a ship owner is in receivership and has not paid its seafarers wages for more than 2 months, would the seafarers be able to tap on the financial security system to seek financial assistance in this regard?

Thank you.

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