Employment of Foreign Seafarers on Australian Controlled Ships

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Employment of Foreign Seafarers on Australian-Controlled Ships - Mixed Nationality Crewing[1] Dr Edward N. Eadie[2]

Mixed Nationality Crewing In this article consideration is given to a range of issues that need to be addressed in connection with the actual recruitment and employment of foreign seafarers on Australian-controlled ships in a mixed nationality crewing situation. These comprise cultural considerations, language and safety, diet and catering, training and certification, recruitment and availability, wages and conditions of employment, and potential crew supply countries.

It is assumed for the purposes of the following discussion that Australian-controlled ships operating in the international trades are crewed by Australian officers and foreign ratings, and that the ratings include seamen, marine cooks, and marine stewards. Naturally, the number of seafarers employed on any particular ship will depend on the size, age, and type of ship. In Shipping Industry Reform Authority (1994, p. 15) it was envisaged that a crew level as low as fourteen was achievable on a modern major trading ship, subject to suitable training. It was suggested that a crew of fifteen could comprise the master and three mates, the chief engineer and three other engineers, five seamen (possibly higher skilled), and two caterers, and that the crew could be reduced to fourteen with the introduction of dual certificated officers. Such a crew of fourteen seafarers would contain an equal number of officers and ratings, and was predicated on the basis of a high cost all Australian crew. However, there is no reason why a similar reduction in crew size should not be possible using Australian officers and appropriately trained foreign ratings, although the pressure to reduce crew size might not be quite so critical in terms of cost if foreign ratings are employed. In Craig-Bennett (1995, p. 4) it is observed that most ships being built today are designed to carry around twenty six persons. In practice that allows for an actual complement of seventeen or eighteen seafarers, and these need to include the master, three deck officers, the chief engineer, two engineers and an electronics officer, so that the number of ratings including the cook and a steward that can be employed on the ship cannot exceed ten. This crewing is consistent in terms of officer complement with that suggested in Shipping Industry Reform Authority as outlined above for a modern ship, and indicates an upper limit on the number of ratings than can be employed on such a ship when regular accommodation availability for crew is taken into account.

1. Cultural Considerations The practice of employing seafarers of one country to man the ships of another is not new. Indeed, in early history the Romans, Phoenicians, Greeks, and Arabs established powerful shipping fleets for trade and war based on the use of foreign seafarers on their ships, and more recently the colonial empires of Britain, The Netherlands, and France were served by trading ships manned by seafarers from their colonies (International Shipping Federation 1990, p. 1). However, it became common in modern times for legislative provisions and union agreements to place restrictions on the nationality of crew that shipowners could employ, and in consequence many shipowners transferred their ships to open registers offering a more flexible crewing regime in order to remain competitive. According to Northrup and Rowan (1983, p. 96) seafarers from India, Pakistan , and Bangladesh had worked on British, Dutch, and other European ships since the early eighteenth century, but by the early 1980s a large percentage of seamen from developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region were employed on Flag of Convenience ships. Even more recently many such seafarers were engaged on second register ships.

In the case of an Australian-controlled ship employing a mixed nationality crew of Australian officers and foreign ratings, it would appear to be most desirable for all the ratings on a particular ship to come from the same carefully selected country chosen on the basis of a number of factors including cultural considerations rather than be drawn from various countries. This would facilitate better social interaction among the ratings through the sharing of common traditions and background and assist in the provision of suitable catering arrangements. Further, it should simplify the recruitment of ratings as well as travel requirements associated with joining and leaving the ship. The adoption of a single nationality criterion for ratings on a particular ship, and indeed for an entire fleet, might seem an obvious choice, but it is reported by Selander (1993, p. 3) that the ITF frequently encounters crew lists comprising ten or more nationalities without a common language being readily apparent. Surely, such a situation not only inhibits proper communication and social well-being among crew members, but represents a risk to safety.

The decision of many shipowners in recent years to transfer the registration of their ships from a traditional national register to an international register, whether an open register or second register, and in association with this to employ foreign seafarers on their ships, raises the question as to the country or countries from which such seafarers should be drawn. In the search for a ‘perfect cultural match’ (Patwardhan 1995, p. 2) traditional shipowners at first turned to seafarers from former colonies rather than experiment with those from other countries with unfamiliar or unknown cultures, while shipowners from countries without colonial links employed seamen from developing countries with seafaring traditions. However, it is observed by Patwardhan (1995, p. 2) that it soon became common to see ships operating in the international trades function in perfect harmony with officers and ratings drawn from countries having diverse cultures, priorities, and disciplines, and that social adjustment, mutual tolerance, and cultural compatibility were achieved more easily than originally envisaged. Similarly, successful cultural interaction is experienced in academic institutions such as Balliol College, Oxford, and International House, Melbourne, and indeed at the Australian Maritime College, Launceston, and the World Maritime University, Malmo, where students from many different countries live and work in social harmony, while in the latter two institutions, as at sea, the residents are able to share a common interest in shipping and the marine environment.

Even though the transition from single culture national flag shipping to mixed culture open and second registry shipping has taken place successfully, and with general cultural harmony among seafarers of diverse nationality, a shipowner should remain aware of cultural differences between and within countries in both the selection of crew and the operation of ships under his control in order to ensure the maintenance of a high level of morale and effectiveness among the crew, and some of these cultural matters will be mentioned later in the article when potential crew supply countries are considered.

2. Language and Safety In Marine Orders Part 3 (Issue 4, p. 6) that cover Seagoing Qualifications and were made under the Navigation Act 1912, it is specified in provision 6.4 that a person shall not be qualified to serve on a ship unless that person is sufficiently familiar with the English language to enable a full understanding of directions in relation to the performance of duties. This language requirement legally applies only to seafarers covered by Part II of the Navigation Act 1912 which was discussed in the first article, but seems so fundamental that it should be extended to all seafarers employed on all Australian-controlled ships including those with mixed nationality crews, and no matter what shipping registration option is adopted including the introduction of a second register.

There does not appear to be any clearly established practice internationally in relation to language and safety on ships. According to Selander (1993, p. 4) there has been much discussion regarding the need for a common language for use at sea, but little action has been taken, and a belief exists among some in the shipping industry that only ‘key crew members’ need to share a common language. The Scandinavian Star disaster involving fire on board is cited by Selander (1993, p. 4) as a case where the absence of a common language was a factor contributing to the overall loss of life, and the report of the Swedish government into the tragedy made shocking revelations of crew incompetence and panic (Lawford 1995, p. 1). The employment of competent seafarers is regarded by Ugland (1993, pp. 5-6) as a prime requirement for the maintenance of safety at sea, and that this involves the selection of seafarers who are intelligent, interested, enthusiastic, and motivated. Further, to ensure safety they should be proficient in English as the language of the sea.

It was reported by Sien (1994, p. 2) that the Chamber of Shipping did not believe there was a widespread problem associated with language in mixed nationality crewing situations that prevented effective communication on board, but rather that proper operating instructions from shore-based management played a crucial role in ensuring the safe operation of ships, and this applied regardless of the country of origin of the crew. However, it was conceded that seafarers were less readily employable if they lacked the ability to communicate in English. Indeed, use of the English language regarded as essential for the operation of international shipping was enunciated by Sien (1994, p. 7) as a factor in the ability of the Philippines to supply seafarers to satisfy international demand. However, a warning was given by Craig-Bennett (1995, p. 6) regarding the commonly held perception of fluency in English by Filipino seafarers, and he implied that the understanding of English enjoyed by officers might not extend to ratings. Further, there has been a gradual deterioration in the command of English by Filipinos generally over the last two generations. Sien (1994, p. 7) regarded it as significant that countries where the use of English has been replaced by national languages have been less successful in promoting seafaring, and noted that Myanmar (formerly Burma) has reinstated English as the language for its maritime training programme. Further, he suggested that a more general adoption and promotion of English in countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and China would more readily enable the employment of their seafarers by foreign shipowners. Indeed, it is recommended by Sien (1994, p. 15) that more should be done to promote training in the use of shipboard English, and this could include the production of appropriate text books, manuals, and instruction guides.

There is anecdotal evidence that even reputable shipowners are employing mixed nationality crews in circumstances where there is little general communication in English (or indeed any other language) between a few senior officers and most of the crew. Even though the latter share a common language among themselves and some of them at least understand sufficient English for essential operational purposes, it would seem such a situation could present problems in an emergency. The question of competency in English is a matter that needs to be carefully considered in the selection of possible supply countries for ratings employed on Australian-controlled ships, and even more particularly in the engagement of individual seafarers. Some comments on the general capability to speak or understand English will be made later in the article when selected crew supply countries are discussed, and there will need to be a suitable procedure in place to ensure that seafarers actually employed have an adequate knowledge of English.

3. Diet and Catering The establishment of single messing facilities on new Australian ships was included as a non-wage condition in the Maritime Industry Modern Ships Award 1989 (Morris 1993, p. 70). This replaced an antiquated arrangement under which there were separate dining and recreation rooms for officers and ratings. New Australian ships have a single cafeteria-style servery, and all categories of seafarer including the master and most junior rating receive the same food from the same galley and eat in the same dining room (Bolitho 1991, p. 20). Such facilities should be suitable for a mixed nationality crew. Indeed, the presence of mixed nationality seafarers should provide the incentive and opportunity for the crew to enjoy a more exciting and varied cuisine just as Australia generally has benefited in this regard by the post-war arrival in Australia of migrants from Europe and in more recent years from Asian countries. Further, galley and serving facilities would probably be adequate to provide a choice of food at any particular meal, and this would increase variety even more as well as enable the culinary preferences or dietary requirements of each nationality to be fully catered for. In the academic institutions referred to earlier under cultural considerations the residents from many different nations enjoy the same food prepared in the same kitchen and dine in the same hall without any apparent gastronomical or other problems.

A great many foreign ships with crews of various nationalities engaged in the international trades regularly visit a range of Australian ports, and presumably such ships are able to obtain the necessary supplies for catering purposes at either Australian or overseas ports. This indicates that Australian-controlled ships with mixed nationality crews involved in the international trades should be able to obtain suitable catering supplies in the same way as currently operating foreign ships engaged in similar trades already do. In any event it can be expected that Australian ship suppliers would make sure they are able to satisfy any particular needs that might arise.

According to Craig-Bennett (1995, p. 5) there is an apparent over-supply of catering staff in the Philippines, but he warns there is a lack of training in the skills of provisioning, storage, hygiene, and diet that distinguish a good ship’s cook from a restaurant cook. These skill requirements for a satisfactory marine cook need to be kept in mind in the selection of a cook of whatever nationality, and there should be a clear understanding regarding this between the shipowner and any manning agent used in the engagement of crew.

4. Training and Certification The adoption by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in July 1995 of a revised Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention that came into force in February 1997 has been discussed in the previous article under international conventions. It is observed by Horrocks (1995, pp. 3-4) that the new STCW Convention not only imposes an obligation on shipowners to employ properly qualified crew, but places corresponding obligations on the state issuing a certificate of competence and on the flag state to take responsibility for endorsing the competence of seafarers serving on its ships. Indeed, under the revised STCW Convention states issuing certificates of competence to seafarers were required by 1 August 1998, to make a written submission to the IMO setting out details of their training, examination, and certification procedures for review by a group of competent persons, and a ‘white list’ was to be published by the IMO showing the governments that have submitted satisfactory evidence of compliance with STCW standards. A consequence of this is that any country not on the list is likely to become regarded with suspicion by both flag states and port states as anticipated by Horrocks (1995, p. 4). In addition, flag states that employ foreign seafarers on their ships are required to submit individual endorsements for each such seafarer to the IMO for consideration by the competent persons, and it is not sufficient to rely on the endorsement of other flag states for this purpose (Horrocks 1995, p. 4). The obligations put on training countries and flag states by the revised STCW Convention bestows real authority on the IMO, and provided the measures are effective there should be a much needed improvement globally in seafarer competence. Indeed, in the ‘Ships of shame’ report (House of Representatives Standing Committee on Transport, Communications and Infrastructure 1992, Overview, p. xix) it is recorded that the Committee received extensive evidence of poor quality crew training as well as lack of experience, and that the crews on many bulk carriers were not only inexperienced, but had no formal training. Some inconvenience and cost will be imposed on Australian and other shipowners by the new STCW Convention, but overall it should contribute to making Australian shipping more competitive in the international trades. Moreover, it is important to ensure that foreign seafarers employed on Australian-controlled ships are recruited only from countries whose training and certification is of a satisfactory standard as evidenced by the presence on the IMO ‘white list’ of any crew supply country.

While acknowledging the benefits that should result from the revised STCW Convention if properly and comprehensively implemented, Kinrade (1995, pp. 1-6) anticipated there will be teething problems associated with its introduction. These could arise, for instance, from the need for seafarers to take additional training to meet convention requirements, or the inability of flag state administrations to cope adequately with the number of seafarers to be processed, and the outcome would be some shortage during the short to medium term of available crew members at each of the new ‘levels of responsibility’, namely management level (senior officers), operational level (junior officers), and support level (ratings) as outlined by Kinrade (1995, p. 4). Other consequences of the introduction of the new STCW Convention might be that some lesser maritime labour supply countries drop out of the market because of the administrative burden associated with submitting their training and certification process for international validation, and some smaller open registers might cease to operate because of the requirement to issue individual endorsements for seafarers employed on their ships (Horrocks 1995, p. 5). Even in the case of the Philippines, the largest supplier of maritime labour to foreign fleets, a warning was given by Gloersen (1995, pp. 4 & 8) that many flag states and shipowners have serious doubts as to whether that country will qualify for the IMO ‘white list’, although he believes it would by meeting the challenge and overcoming present weaknesses in order to qualify. If this is achieved there will be an increase in demand for Filipino seafarers as other labour supply countries opt out, but if not a dramatic drop in demand would occur. It has been proposed by Gloersen (1995, p. 7) that many existing maritime schools in the Philippines not expected to qualify for officer education should convert to rating schools and provide a dedicated education in practical skills, and if this happens the Philippines could become a larger and improved source of supply of ratings.

In relation to the reductions in ship crew size with associated cost savings brought about by advanced technology, greater automation, and computerisation, Sien (1994, p. 1) warns of the operational risks involved unless such sophisticated modern ships are manned by ‘well trained officers and ratings, capable of dual or multiple functions and able to work independently’, and a similar concern regarding reduced crew size was expressed in the ‘Ships of shame’ report (House of Representatives Standing Committee on Transport, Communications and Infrastructure 1992, Overview, p. xx). A responsible approach to manning and training on modern ships has been adopted by the Australian shipping industry, and this should be maintained on any Australian-controlled ships crewed by Australian officers and foreign ratings. This needs to be kept in mind in relation to the training of any foreign ratings employed, and might well involve the achievement of an appropriate balance between quality and cost. Modern ships with a manning level of around fifteen are no longer regarded as exceptional or unrealistic, and it should be possible to recruit suitably trained ratings, preferably with some relevant experience, to serve on such ships. In any event, provided the ratings selected are intelligent and enthusiastic, they should respond favourably to further on-board training given in the normal course of their work. According to Sien (1994, p. 5) there is an oversupply of ratings with training requirements being easily met and supply increases achieved without difficulty. Further, it is seen in Karma (1994, Appendix 1) that dual purpose rating training is provided in many Asian countries including India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan , Philippines, and Vietnam, and indeed in each of the selected Asian countries for which tabulated information on training and certification is given by Karma. These factors would appear to auger well for the recruitment of an adequate number of suitably trained foreign ratings to serve on Australian-controlled ships.

Shipowners in some countries such as Norway and Japan participate in the training of seafarers in crew supply countries, particularly the Philippines (Karma 1994, p. 5 & Sien 1994, p. 11). Indeed, according to Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (1994(a), p. 3) the United States, Cyprus, Japan, Norway, The Netherlands, and Germany were investors in the training of Filipino seafarers, and as observed in Guest (1993, p. 33) Norway and Japan are the largest employers of Filipino seafarers. In the case of Norway (Gloersen 1995, pp. 2 & 8) the shipping industry through the Norwegian Maritime Training Centre in Manila has since 1990 offered upgrading courses for Filipino seafarers as well as provided funding and expertise to assist in the improvement of selected training centres and maritime academies, and in 1995 a new Norwegian Training Centre was opened. Notwithstanding such involvement it is the opinion of Norwegian shipowners (Gloersen 1995, p. 7) that in the longer term the cost of providing training to the level of basic STCW certificates should not be the responsibility of the shipping industry, and that the role of the industry should be the provision of relevant seagoing experience and specialised training required by individual companies. Indeed, in Shipping Industry Reform Authority (1994, pp. 18-19) reference is made to the need for Australia to search for cost effective solutions to skill requirements and training bearing in mind both the desirability of having small crews and the training cost burden imposed on shipowners that adds to Australia’s cost disadvantage.

It is interesting to observe in Gloersen (1995, pp. 2 & 7) that around 22,000 Filipino seafarers are employed on Norwegian controlled ships and that of these only about 25% are officers, so that around 16,500 Filipino ratings serve in the Norwegian controlled fleet. Further, Filipino seafarers account for around 37% of the total manning of that fleet. Even if there was a substantial increase in the number of Australian-controlled ships operating in the international trades, the demand for foreign ratings to serve on these ships would be small compared with the number of such ratings, indeed of Filipino ratings, employed in the Norwegian fleet. Some sort of involvement by Australia in the training of foreign ratings is a possible option to consider, but it would seem preferable in view of the relatively small number of ratings required, at the outset at least, for Australian shipowners to recruit, if possible, suitably qualified ratings in the open market from a selected country or countries rather than become involved as a participant in training activities. Besides, such involvements by foreign shipowners are directed towards the training of officers rather than ratings, and Australia is concerned only with the employment of foreign ratings. Naturally, the situation could be reviewed in the light of experience or as the demand for foreign seafarers increases.

5. Recruitment and Availability A substantial amount of valuable information relevant to the recruitment in the broader sense of foreign seafarers is contained in the ISF Guide to International Maritime Labour Supply (International Shipping Federation 1990, pp. 1-205). The Guide aims to provide factual information on basic matters related to the labour situation in a number of crew supply countries around the world, and its preparation has been assisted in the provision of information by many companies and individuals in different countries. Each crew supply country is dealt with separately, and the twenty countries covered in the Guide (in alphabetical order) are Bangladesh , Barbados, Bulgaria, China, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Korea, Liberia, Maldives, Malta, Myanmar, Pakistan , Philippines, Poland, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Tuvalu. Information for each country is provided on a range of matters, and in general these comprise background on the country and its maritime labour supply, availability of seafarers, maritime skill levels and experience, social considerations including nationality mixing, language skills and culture, international conventions, recruitment of seafarers, unions, training and certification for officers and ratings, conditions of employment including wages, overtime and leave, travel, useful addresses and contacts, and in some cases specific matters that are peculiar or especially relevant to a particular country. Even though published in 1990 much of the information given in the Guide will remain applicable, although certain matters such as wage levels will be somewhat dated. In any event, full up-to-date information should be obtained about any particular country from which the actual employment of foreign crew is contemplated. Further, it would be desirable for a representative of the Australian Shipowners Association or of individual shipping companies to have discussions with foreign shipowners employing crew from the country or countries under consideration, and to visit these countries to make further investigations and establish contacts prior to the engagement of crew. In the meantime, some pertinent details relevant to the recruitment of foreign seafarers from specific countries are given later when potential crew supply countries are considered, and these should assist in conjunction with other information in selecting particular countries for further investigation as possible sources of supply of foreign ratings to serve on Australian-controlled ships.

In 1990 the ISF and BIMCO were involved jointly in a manpower availability study that attempted to quantify the supply and demand for seafarers internationally, and an update of this study was published in December 1995 (Horrocks 1995, pp. 5-6 & BIMCO/ISF 1995 (a), (b), and (c )). The aim of the new study was to analyse the supply and demand situations in 1995, and make predictions for the years 2000 and 2005. The study deals with officers and ratings separately, and for each attempts to assess supply by flag and demand by flag for individual countries. A surplus of supply over demand for ratings in a particular country suggests the availability in that country of ratings for employment on foreign flag ships so, even though the matter of competitive foreign demand for such surplus ratings is not addressed specifically, the study is useful in indicating potential crew supply countries. However, Australian shipowners should carefully select the country or countries from which to recruit ratings on the basis of a number of different factors including proximity to Australia, language skills, training standards, experience, and overall cost of employment, and not merely seek to engage seafarers from a particular country because they are commonly employed by shipowners in other countries. The adoption of such an approach should result in better value for money, and enable the engagement of ratings most suitable for employment on Australian-controlled ships.

Reference should be made here to the role of local manning agents in the recruitment of foreign seafarers. Indeed, many shipowners have to rely very heavily on such manning agents for the supply of suitable quality foreign seafarers to serve on their ships as indicated in International Shipping Federation (1990, p. 2). However, the reputation in terms of professionalism and integrity of manning agents is variable, and there have been cases of seafarer abuse and unacceptable practice by manning agencies (Horrocks 1995, p. 6). In consequence, the International Shipping Federation (ISF) in 1995 produced a Manning Agents Policy (Horrocks 1995, Attachment) to assist shipowners in seeking satisfactory answers to the right questions before engaging a manning agent, and shortly after its release the Filipino Association for Mariners’ Employment (FAME) adopted the ISF Policy as part of its commitment to quality management (Horrocks 1995, p. 6 & Filipino Association for Mariners’ Employment 1995, pp. 6-7). The ISF Manning Agents Policy contains seventeen general principles that should be practised by manning agencies. These cover such matters as compliance with domestic law in relation to establishment and qualifications, maintenance of or access to full and complete records including those containing comprehensive information on each seafarer, adoption of formal procedures such as those to prevent exploitation of seafarers by the agency and those to check the validity of seafarer certificates, publication of details regarding charges to shipowners and costs to seafarers, allowance of reasonable choice for seafarers to select employer and for employer to choose seafarers, and provision of access to agency premises by shipowners and officials for inspection purposes. Clearly, it is important that effective use be made of the ISF Manning Agents Policy by Australian shipowners in the selection in any country of any manning agent engaged to facilitate the recruitment of foreign seafarers for employment on Australian-controlled ships. Further, initial contacts with a prospective manning agent should provide the opportunity to discuss the desirability of continuity of employment and ascertain whether this can be arranged as advocated by Selander (1993, pp. 3-4).

6. Wages and Conditions of Employment The level of wages and other conditions of employment are important factors to be taken into account in any decision to engage foreign seafarers from a particular country to serve on Australian-controlled ships because of their effect on the costs of employment, and in consequence on overall operating costs which play a crucial role in determining the competitive position of such ships in the international trades. Indeed, the high level of existing crew costs is the dominant reason for considering the employment of foreign seafarers on Australian-controlled ships, and this should be kept in mind. However, the matter of cost associated with the employment of seafarers must always be tempered with the need for quality and suitability in order to ensure the proper operation and safety of any ships on which foreign seafarers are employed.

Both the ILO recommended minimum wage and activities of the ITF in relation to wages have been discussed already in the previous article. In the ISF Guide to International Maritime Labour Supply (International Shipping Federation 1990) much useful information on rates of pay and conditions of employment generally is given for each of the seafarer supply countries covered. It is seen that there is considerable variation from country to country in the level of wages as well as other conditions of employment applicable to seafarers serving on foreign ships, and that in some cases there is flexibility to negotiate wage rates payable. Even though wage statistics shown in the Guide are now out of date, they do give some indication of relativity between countries. Of course, up to date information should be obtained for any country being considered further as a possible supply country for ratings employed on Australian-controlled ships.

7. Potential Crew Supply Countries In this section some general observations are made on selected countries in relation to their suitability as a source of supply of foreign ratings for employment on Australian-controlled ships, and the countries included in the discussion have been identified as present or future potential crew supply countries that warrant consideration and possible further evaluation. The Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are the most obvious and potentially attractive sources of supply of foreign ratings to serve on Australian-controlled ships, but Myanmar, Indonesia, Eastern Europe, China and Vietnam could be considered also, or at least watched, as possible present or future sources of supply of ratings.

(1) The Philippines. In 1995 the Philippines supplied 19.8% of the world’s merchant seafarers (Horrocks 1995, p. 5), and Philippine flag demand for ratings in 1995 was around 10,000 compared with a domestic supply of ratings of about 195,000 (BIMCO/ISF 1995(c), Annexes A and F). Consequently, approximately 185,000 Filipino ratings were employed or available for employment on foreign flag ships, and the Philippines must be regarded as a major potential source of supply of ratings. Indeed, a large number of Filipino seafarers are employed on foreign-going vessels including those on the Norwegian International Register (NIS), but as at 1990 many of those available for employment had not served at sea for many years so lacked modern ship experience and this applied to both officers and ratings (International Shipping Federation 1990, p. 139). Thus, it is very important to select carefully any manning agent used to assist in recruitment as discussed above, and to ensure that any seafarers employed are properly qualified in terms of training and experience.

The large number of Filipino seafarers serving on foreign vessels results in the potential availability of ratings with a wide range of experience on a variety of vessel types, although those with more specialised skills can command a premium, and Filipino seafarers generally are regarded as being loyal and committed to their employer (International Shipping Federation 1990, pp. 143-144). Further, they are adaptable to mixed nationality crewing, mix well with other seafarers, and respond favourably to polite treatment. In particular, it is important they should not be put in a position of losing face, especially to a subordinate (ibid., p. 144). Mention should be made also that Filipino seafarers tend to prefer to report that a problem has been fixed rather than that it exists (ibid., p. 144) so for safety reasons they should be made aware of the potential dangers of such reservation.

In International Shipping Federation (1990, p. 144) it is observed that most Filipino officers and petty officers have a good command of both spoken and written English, but ratings are not mentioned. This omission would appear to support the suggestion in Craig-Bennett (1995, p. 6) that Filipino ratings might have only a limited understanding of English.

The employment of Filipino seafarers working on foreign-going vessels is regulated by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), and a standard employment contract disseminated by the POEA is widely used (International Shipping Federation 1990, pp. 146-147 & Philippine Overseas Employment Administration 1995, pp. 1-6). The minimum wage levels applying to Filipino registered vessels, whether Filipino or foreign owned, are based on the ILO recommended minimum wage as prescribed in the POEA standard contract, but international wage rates such as those applying to ships on the Norwegian and Danish international registers (NIS and DIS) and ITF approved rates are considerably higher than the ILO recommended minimum as indicated in International Shipping Federation (1990, pp. 152-154). According to Craig-Bennett (1995, pp. 4-5) there is no shortage of Filipino ratings, but they are expensive with wages being held up by union pressure. Further, Craig-Bennett (1995, pp. 7-9) warns of rising hidden costs such as medical expenses, premature repatriation, and injury or sickness benefits associated with employing Filipino seafarers. Thus, even though the Philippines is a major supplier of seafarers serving on foreign ships, careful consideration should be given before deciding to employ Filipino ratings on Australian-controlled ships, and a comparison should be made with other potential crew supply countries.

(2) Sri Lanka It is seen (BIMCO/ISF 1995(c), Annexes A and F) that in 1995 flag demand for Sri Lankan ratings was only about 600 compared with a supply of around 7500 so that almost 7000 Sri Lankan ratings were employed or available for employment on foreign ships. Further, it is observed (International Shipping Federation 1990, p. 182) that in 1990 more than half the registered Sri Lankan seafarers (officers and ratings) were awaiting employment, so Sri Lanka appears to offer a large potential source of supply of available seafarers. Traditionally, shipping has been a major industry in Sri Lanka, and the government is keen to promote employment opportunities for Sri Lankan seafarers (International Shipping Federation 1990, pp. 181-182). Sri Lankan crew are well disciplined, mix well, and are liked by seafarers of other nationalities (ibid., p. 182). Further, Sri Lankan ratings are required to have a good working knowledge of English as a prerequisite for entry to training school, are trained to a high standard, and serve on a variety of ship types including sophisticated tonnage (ibid., pp. 182-183 & 187-188). In addition to training in deck, engineroom, and saloon departments, all Sri Lankan seamen are trained and examined in fire fighting, survival at sea, lifeboat training, and first aid.

Sri Lankan seafarers must be registered at the shipping office of the Ministry of Trade and Shipping which serves as an employment exchange through which initial recruitment is undertaken, and provision exists for a shipowner to employ the same seafarers on subsequent contracts (International Shipping Federation 1990, pp. 184-185). Further, registered seamen can be interviewed and selected by the shipowner or his shipping agent at their own office, although only licensed shipping agents (of which there are many) are allowed to provide a manning service to foreign shipowners. Sri Lankan seafarers are required to sign Sri Lankan articles, but in the case of a shipowner not wishing Sri Lankan seamen to join ship on such articles, Sri Lankan seafarers are permitted to sign subsequently articles relevant to the flag of the vessel on which they are to serve (ibid., pp. 188-189). Wages paid to Sri Lankan seafarers are negotiable, and typical wages are considerably lower than the ITF minimum, indeed less than the ILO recommended minimum, even though the Ministry of Trade and Shipping recommends that foreign shipowners pay at least the ILO minimum (ibid., pp. 189-190). It would appear on a number of grounds that Sri Lanka is a potentially attractive source of supply of ratings, and serious consideration should be given to their employment on Australian-controlled ships.

(3) India In 1995 India had a supply of 31,000 ratings compared with a flag demand of around 8,500 as shown in BIMCO/ISF (1995(c), Annexes A and F) so that around 22,500 ratings were employed or available for employment on foreign flag ships. However, pre-sea training for ratings in India was discontinued in 1981 when there was a significant level of unemployment, and in consequence a shortage of young ratings developed. In addition the register of available seafarers contained some ratings not intending to return to sea and others that were virtually unemployable (International Shipping Federation 1990, p. 65). Even though there has been a more recent awareness in India of the need for a greater number of younger ratings coupled with the reintroduction and expansion of rating training facilities, it is unlikely that the shortage of recently trained younger ratings has changed significantly. Nevertheless, a large number of Indian ratings are employed currently on Indian and foreign ships including those on the Norwegian international register, and Indian seafarers work on a wide range of vessel types from sophisticated tankers to general cargo vessels (ibid., pp. 65-66 & 76-77). Further, experienced Indian ratings generally have high skill levels, are well regarded for their loyalty and commitment, and senior ratings at least have a good understanding of English (ibid., pp. 65-66). However, even though Indian seafarers mix well with other nationalities, sensitivity should be shown in relation to political and religious groupings.

Under Indian law all seafarers are required to be registered with the Seamen’s Employment Office in Bombay or Calcutta prior to going to sea, and initial recruitment using licensed shipping agents is done through these offices with the services of the required seamen being offered to the shipowner on a roster basis. The shipowner has the right to refuse individual seafarers, and once recruited it is possible to arrange for the same seafarers to be retained for later voyages (International Shipping Federation 1990, pp. 67-68). Employment conditions for Indian ratings are regulated by the National Maritime Board (NMB) or made subject to special international or company agreements. Wage costs, including overtime and other benefits for Indian seafarers based on NMB rates, compare favourably with the ILO minimum wage, which is considerably lower than wage rates quoted by the ITF. The government asserts that Indian seafarers should not be paid in excess of NMB rates in order to avoid distortion of local wages (ibid., pp. 74-77). However, increasing demand for Indian seafarers has resulted in the spread of special international or company rates that are in excess of the standard NMB rates, and these include those in a collective agreement covering the employment of Indian ratings serving on vessels registered on the Norwegian international register (NIS) and regarded as generally acceptable to the ITF as well as those in an agreement with the Union of Greek Shipowners based essentially on the ILO minimum wage (ibid., pp. 75-77). Indeed, India is a major supplier of seafarers to foreign shipowners, and should be considered as a potential source of ratings for employment on Australian-controlled ships.

(4) Pakistan The flag demand for ratings in Pakistan during 1995 was only around 700 compared with a supply of 5000 (BIMCO/ISF 1995(c), Annexes A and F) indicating an availability of around 4,300 ratings for service on foreign ships. Pakistan has a tradition of supplying ratings to foreign shipowners, and in 1990 around 2,800 Pakistani ratings were employed on foreign vessels, while a substantial number of ratings remained unemployed (International Shipping Federation 1990, p. 128). Even though Pakistani ratings possess expertise in traditional maritime skills and their employment on relatively modern ships has made them aware of expectations in relation to reduced manning, some additional training (as in the case of other seafarers from the region) might be required to enable them to serve with full effectiveness on more sophisticated vessels (ibid., p. 129). Pakistani ratings are familiar with normal operational orders in English, mix well with other nationalities, and are reasonably flexible in relation to diet although appropriate attention needs to be given to Moslem religious requirements (ibid., p. 129). Further, shipowners need to ensure that Pakistani seafarers do not attempt to smuggle alcohol or drugs into Pakistan on their return as these are banned and severe penalties result from contravention of the law (ibid., p. 129). Mention should be made here also that desertion of Pakistani ratings at United States’ ports has become a problem (ibid., p. 135), and this could be a concern for Australian-controlled ships calling at such ports.

All Pakistani ratings are required by law to be registered with the Shipping Master at the Government Shipping Office in Karachi, with no rating being allowed to join either a national or foreign ship without the approval of the Shipping Master. Seafarers are employed on a roster basis using licensed recruiting agents, although provision can be made to maintain continuity of employment on subsequent voyages (International Shipping Federation 1990, p. 130). Even though the Pakistan Seamen’s Union (PSU) is a member of the ITF, it is keen to promote the employment of Pakistani seafarers on foreign flag ships, and various collective agreements have been reached between the PSU and foreign shipowners (ibid., pp. 131-132). In Pakistan the rates of pay for ratings (as in the case of India) are negotiated through the National Maritime Board (NMB), and foreign shipowners using NMB terms and conditions are represented in Karachi by the Owners/Agents Committee (Crews) of the NMB (ibid., pp. 132-134). However, even though the NMB rates of pay are the official rates for Pakistani ratings, foreign shipowners are allowed to negotiate their own higher rates as some have done. Indeed, an enhanced wage scale applies to Pakistani ratings serving on ships registered on the Norwegian international register (NIS). It is interesting to observe (ibid., pp. 75, 77 & 134) that the basic pay for an able seaman (AB) from both Pakistan and India under the NIS collective agreements for these two countries is higher than the ILO recommended minimum, and that under the respective NIS agreements the total monthly payment for a Pakistani AB is significantly less than that for an Indian AB. Pakistan provides a potential source of ratings, and the employment of Pakistani ratings on Australian-controlled ships should be given consideration.

(5) Bangladesh In 1995 the supply of ratings in Bangladesh was around 5200 compared with a flag demand of about 2000 (BIMCO/ISF 1995(c), Annexes A and F), and there existed a surplus of more than 3000 ratings employed or available for employment on foreign ships. According to International Shipping Federation (1990, p. 6) some 2,500 Bangladeshi ratings were employed in 1990, and of these the majority worked on foreign ships including those registered in the Bahamas, Liberia, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom.

Bangladeshi ratings are accustomed to serving with foreign officers, and standards of training and certification are based on the British system (International Shipping Federation 1990, pp. 5-6). Further, there is an orderly recruitment system in Bangladesh regulated through the Shipping Master in Chittagong, and the government is keen to promote the employment of seafarers. Bangladeshi ratings posses expertise in traditional maritime skills, and are aware through their experience on relatively modern and foreign vessels of expectations in relation to reduced manning, although further training is likely to be required to achieve full effectiveness on more sophisticated ships (ibid., p. 7). Ratings from Bangladesh have familiarity with the English language and understand normal instructions, are usually good natured, and mix well (ibid., p. 7). However, there is a potential problem of desertion at United States’ ports, and at times the general level of health can cause problems (ibid., pp. 11-13).

In Bangladesh ratings are required by law to be registered with the Shipping Master at the Government Shipping Office in Chittagong, and a foreign shipowner through an appointed local agent advises the Shipping Master of crew requirements (International Shipping Federation 1990, p. 8). A shipowner or his agent are then given a reasonable choice of seafarers supplied by the Shipping Master from the general roster, and once chosen the selected crew generally sign Bangladesh Articles of Agreement, while a shipowner employing Bangladeshi ratings on eight or more vessels is permitted to establish a company roster of reliable ratings to serve solely on his vessels, and this guarantees some continuity of employment (ibid., p. 8). The union organisations representing seafarers in Bangladesh are not affiliated with the ITF, and the Maritime Board ( Bangladesh ) Agreements provide the official national rates for Bangladeshi ratings that are incorporated in the standard Bangladesh Articles of Agreement (ibid., pp. 8-9). Even though a shipowner with approval of the Shipping Master can enhance benefits, most foreign shipowners adopt the national wages and conditions of the Maritime Board ( Bangladesh ) (ibid., pp. 10-12), and Bangladesh should be considered as a possible source of supply of ratings to serve on Australian-controlled ships.

(6) Myanmar Myanmar had a flag demand in 1995 of about 1,400 ratings compared with a supply of around 10,500 (BIMCO/ISF 1995(c), Annexes A and F) so that more than 9000 ratings were employed or available for employment on foreign registered ships, and in 1990 approximately half the seafarers registered in Myanmar (of whom more than half were ratings) were employed on foreign flag ships (International Shipping Federation 1990, p. 120). Indeed, Myanmar seafarers served on many foreign flag vessels including those registered in Liberia, Panama, Cyprus, Singapore, and Greece, and in 1990 more than ninety foreign shipping companies engaged Myanmar seafarers (ibid., pp. 120 & 124).

Shipowners are attracted to Myanmar as a supplier of maritime labour because maritime training and certification is based on the British system, the country has a maritime tradition, and the employment of seafarers in the international market is encouraged by the government (International Shipping Federation 1990, p. 120). Myanmar seamen are reliable and possess basic technical skills together with a willingness to be trained in modern vessel technology (probably required for service on sophisticated ships), and ratings have a seamanship understanding of English (ibid., p. 121). Indeed, English has been readopted by Myanmar as the language used in maritime training (Sien 1994, p. 7).

After completing basic training at the Institute of Marine Technology in Myanmar, seamen are qualified to register with the Seamen Employment Control Division (SECD) of the Department of Marine Administration, and SECD is the only supply source for Myanmar seafarers with seafarers being engaged under a collective agreement signed between SECD and the shipowner that confers government approval (International Shipping Federation 1990, pp. 124-125). The basic wage for an able seaman (AB) from Myanmar appears to be comparable with that of an AB from India working under the collective agreement covering Norwegian ships registered on the NIS (ibid., pp. 77 & 125). Even though the current political situation gives rise to some concern, Myanmar could be considered, or at least watched, as a possible supply source for ratings to serve on Australian-controlled ships.

(7) Indonesia According to BIMCO/ISF (1995(c), Annexes A and F) the flag demand in 1995 for Indonesian ratings was slightly less than 17,000 compared with a supply of 68,000 that indicated around 51,000 ratings were working or available for employment on foreign registered ships. In 1989 the vast majority of Indonesian seafarers registered for employment were ratings, and official figures showed that around 40,000 seafarers were actively employed of whom more than 12,000 served on foreign flag ships, while 7000 seafarers were seeking employment (International Shipping Federation 1990, p. 82).

Even though these statistics point to Indonesia as a potential source of supply of ratings, and Indonesia is a country with seafaring traditions and a large population located geographically close to Australia, there are draw backs to the employment of Indonesian ratings on Australian-controlled ships. First, the main foreign employers of Indonesian seafarers have Dutch links arising from the traditional and long established association between Indonesia and the Netherlands, and in consequence there is a limited understanding of English even by junior officers and petty officers (International Shipping Federation 1990, p. 83) that can be expected to apply even more so to ratings. Secondly, there is only one land-based government training school for ratings in Indonesia, and the majority of ratings gain their training through on-board experience in a supernumerary capacity on coastal vessels with promotion to able seaman (AB) after four to six years (ibid., p. 86). Further, very few Indonesian registered ships are engaged in international trading (ibid., p. 82). Thus, although there is latent potential for Indonesia to become a major supplier of seafarers to the international market that should be watched, there appears to be no abundant availability at present of suitably trained and experienced seafarers (ibid., p. 87). This, coupled with a lack of proficiency in English, militates against Indonesia as a current source of ratings for employment on Australian-controlled ships.

(8) Eastern Europe During the latter part of the 1980s and early part of the 1990s seafarers from countries in Eastern Europe, particularly Poland, Croatia, and the Ukraine, became available in substantial numbers to serve on foreign ships operating in the international trades (International Shipping Federation 1990, p. 162 & Sien 1994, p. 4). However, it is observed in BIMCO/ISF (1995(a), p. 4) that the impact on the international labour market arising from political changes in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe and the emergence of new supply sources for seafarers was less pronounced than initially anticipated. Indeed, many seafarers in these countries left the shipping industry following privatisation, while some of those remaining in the industry might not be regarded as suitably qualified to serve on international vessels.

It is deduced from BIMCO/ISF (1995(c), Annexes A and F) that a supply surplus of ratings in excess of flag demand existed during 1995 in a number of countries in Eastern Europe, and these included Croatia with a surplus of around 13,200 ratings, Latvia 5,600, Poland 3,900, Russia 4,900, and the Ukraine 23,700. In view of the potential availability of ratings from these countries, and notwithstanding the caution regarding suitability expressed above, the possibility of employing ratings from Eastern Europe on Australian-controlled ships could be given some consideration and the situation monitored in the future. However, the compatibility of ratings from these countries serving with Australian officers could be impaired by a language barrier as indicated in the case of Polish seafarers (International Shipping Federation 1990, p. 165), and even though the cost of employing ratings from these countries might be competitively attractive as a result of their desire to earn foreign exchange, pressure could arise from the international trade union movement for the payment of higher wages. Furthermore, these countries are geographically more remote from Australia than the seafarer supply countries of Asia.

(9) China The employment of Chinese seafarers in the international maritime labour market is discussed by Gilbert (1995, pp. 1-6), and he concludes (ibid., p. 6) there is likely to be increasing demand for Chinese seafarers by foreign shipowners. Further, Gilbert expects that the availability and quality of Chinese seafarers will improve to such an extent that China will become a major supplier of maritime labour to the international market (ibid., p. 5). However, it is seen from BIMCO/ISF (1995(c), Annexes A and F) that in 1995 flag demand for Chinese ratings exceeded domestic supply by 14,000, although there is expected to be an increase in supply relative to demand with the deficit reduced to about 3000 in the year 2000 and a surplus of around 11,000 achieved in 2005. Thus, China should not be regarded as a present source of ratings, but rather as a possible future supply country that needs to be watched.

In addition to the indicated current lack of availability of Chinese ratings for employment by foreign shipowners, there are some potential problems associated with their employment that should be taken into account in any consideration of their suitability for employment on Australian-controlled ships. These include difficulties in communication and interaction arising from a paucity of spoken English that extends even to basic seamanship terms, limitations in training and experience compared with those normally required for international seafaring, and inability to establish and maintain any substantial level of continuity of employment of crew members on subsequent voyages (International Shipping Federation 1990, pp. 29-30). Further, there is some risk of foreign ships employing Chinese seafarers being boycotted by overseas stevedores in unions affiliated with the ITF, even though the Chinese crew is unlikely to support any external industrial action (ibid., p. 28 & Gilbert 1995, pp. 4-5).

(10) Vietnam Vietnam is mentioned by Sien (1994, p. 4) as a potential source of maritime labour, and the present author is aware of a major Japanese shipowner that recently replaced Filipino crew by Vietnamese seafarers on at least some ships in order to reduce costs. In BIMCO/ISF (1995(c), Annexes A and F) it is seen there was a flag demand in 1995 for around 3,400 Vietnamese ratings compared with a supply of 9000 that indicated around 5600 Vietnamese ratings were then employed or available for employment on foreign flag ships.

Even though English language skills and foreign seafaring experience cannot be expected to be widespread among Vietnamese seafarers, these are likely to become more common as Vietnam expands its contacts with other countries and more Vietnamese seafarers are employed on foreign ships. Indeed, it is possible that Vietnam could become a significant supplier of maritime labour to the international market, and should be watched as a potential source of supply of ratings for employment on Australian-controlled ships. However, the future expansion of the Vietnamese economy and consequent rise in domestic employment opportunities could be such that seafaring ceases to be an attractive employment option as has happened (Sien 1994, p. 3) in South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

Conclusions A number of issues need to be addressed in connection with mixed nationality crewing involving the employment of foreign ratings on Australian-controlled ships. Potentially suitable supply countries for such ratings are the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan , and Bangladesh , while Myanmar, Indonesia, Eastern Europe, China, and Vietnam could be considered also and watched as possible future sources of supply. Moreover, as seen in the series of three articles, there are many issues involving ship registration options, legislative considerations, and industrial aspects as well as those specific to mixed nationality crewing that need to be addressed in connection with the employment of foreign seafarers on Australian-controlled ships, although it should be possible to resolve these successfully in order to make it happen.

Acknowledgments The author expresses particular thanks to Mr Lachlan Payne of the Australian Shipowners Association for his support and the provision of access to library facilities, to Commodore Sam Bateman of the Centre for Maritime Policy at the University of Wollongong for his encouragement and making possible the publication of the present work, and to Mrs Jillian Stevens of Adelaide for her dedication with the word-processing. The series of three companion articles is based on the thesis of the author that resulted in him becoming in 1997 the first Master of Business (Maritime Management) graduate of the Australian Maritime College.

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[1] This is the third of three major articles by Dr Eadie dealing with the employment of foreign seafarers in Australian ships published in successive issues of Maritime Studies.

[2] Research Consultant, Adelaide, South Australia.