The Black Sea project

Promoting education, legislation and unionisation

The Black Sea region is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a seafarer.

Many ship owners and crewing agents have little regard for their workers, a significant number of whom were killed in accidents often caused by vessels in serious states of disrepair.

Seafarers around the ports of the Black Sea region are also subject to serious abuses of their human and employment rights.

These violations include:

  • the non-payment of wages, resulting in families being left destitute and crew being unable to return home
  • seafarers living on vessels far from home without clean water and provisions
  • boats unsuitable for harsh conditions that have run aground or even sunk, causing injury and death
  • young seafarers intimidated by blacklisting and older seafarers reluctant to complain

The Black Sea of shame report

The Black Sea area includes Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

In June 2012, ITF affiliated unions compiled the Black Sea of shame report as a wake-up call to maritime stakeholders in the region. It highlighted the frequency of serious accidents and the poor living and working conditions endured by seafarers in the region. This was followed by a 2014 follow up report which found the problems were ongoing.

Read the 2012 ITF report: Black Sea of shame

Read the 2014 follow up report.

Since the report was compiled, little has changed.

What is the ITF’s Black Sea project?

ITF-affiliated unions are working together to tackle the challenges facing seafarers in the Black Sea region. They have adopted three key strategies:

  • Regulation
  • Unionisation
  • Education

Regulation: The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), 2006

The MLC provides comprehensive protection for seafarers and promotes conditions of fair competition for ship owners.

Now in force in Russia and Bulgaria, it has strengthened unions’ resolve to improve living and working conditions for seafarers.

It has given hope not only to seafarers in the Black Sea, but also worldwide by:

  • guaranteeing a minimum standard of working conditions
  • covering employment terms, accommodation standards and recreation
  • making it possible for vessels that are unfit for purpose to be detained

Read and share the MLC.

Unionisation: together we’re stronger

ITF and its affiliates are committed to organising the region’s seafarers. As union members, they would be covered by collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) and have the full support of their union representatives.

Education: Black Sea action weeks

Through annual action weeks, we’re making sure that seafarers know their rights.

During this week of campaigning, teams of inspectors and union activists carry out concentrated inspections in many of the region’s ports. They also share vital information with seafarers about their rights under the MLC, and the work trade unions are doing to protect them.

As well as giving support to individual seafarers, the teams negotiate for CBAs to improve conditions for crews.

There’s still work to be done in the Black Sea of shame

To create positive change for the region’s seafarers ITF is:

  • lobbying governments of the Black Sea states to take drastic action
  • compiling regular reports to assess progress
  • encouraging unions to come together and share experiences, best practice and successes

Our Turkish affiliates have also created a film about the Black Sea project. Watch it now.

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