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ITF schools next generation of maritime professionals on flags of convenience, abandonment

18 Jun 2024

The ITF’s Annica Barning and Mohamed Arradechi gave guest lectures at the World Maritime University in April

Future maritime lawyers, academics, flag state administrators and coastguards were among the next generation of maritime professionals to listen and learn from ITF staff at the World Maritime University (WMU).

In April, the ITF’s Annica Barning and Mohamed Arrachedi gave separate lectures at the WMU in Malmö, Sweden.

Barning, a project lead in the ITF Maritime Operations team, covered the work ITF inspectors do, the history of the flags of convenience (FOC) system and the ITF’s FOC campaign, launched in Oslo in 1948. 

She also led a role-playing exercise she created called ‘M/S Scrap’, in which students take on the roles of ship owner, port state control and an ITF inspector, with the latter dealing with the all-too-familiar story of a ship in bad shape with an unpaid crew and insufficient food.

Barning worked as an ITF inspector for 18 years, split between 11 years in Stockholm covering the east coast of Sweden, and seven years in Malmö, covering the south coast. It was a return to home for Barning, as the WMU – a postgraduate maritime university founded within the framework of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) – is based in the city.

Mohamed Arrachedi is the ITF Flag of Convenience Network Coordinator for the Arab World and Iran.

Arrachedi, who deals with the plight of abandoned seafarers on a daily basis, gave a lecture on abandonment, spanning legal definitions, what the ITF encounters in the many cases it deals with, as well as what can be done to end the abusive practice.

In 2023, the ITF logged record high abandonment figures of 129 vessels and 1,983 seafarers, with the ITF submitting 129 of the 132 abandonments reported to the International Labour Organisation during the year. Indian seafarers were the most abandoned nationality of seafarer – with 401 Indian nationals abandoned – followed by Filipinos and Syrians. 

Only six months into 2024, the ITF is on track to record an even high number of abandonments, with the 135 abandoned vessels already exceeding the 2023 total.

In one shocking story, Syrian seafarer Abdul Nasser Saleh finally escaped a vessel after being abandoned for 12 years.

“It’s crucial for the ITF that we engage with academic institutions to ensure that the next generation of maritime professionals is aware of this cancer of the industry," said Arrachedi. "This is part of our effort to build global awareness of these issues and end the abandonment of seafarers. 

“It was very clear that the students were shocked to hear about the scale and severity of abandonment. They share our fundamental belief that we must never accept such horrific abuses of seafarers’ rights.”