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ITF recovers almost US$120 million in unpaid wages for seafarers over last three years

news Press Release 27 Sep 2023

Inspectors from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) recovered USD $118,529,663 in wages owed to seafarers between 2020 and 2022, figures published today on World Maritime Day reveal. More than USD $36 million was paid back to seafarers in 2022 alone. 

ITF inspectors are officials who board vessels to educate seafarers on their rights, identify any violations of crew contracts, national laws or international conventions, and who then work with authorities to see rights are enforced. The ITF has inspectors operating out of 111 ports in 56 countries. 

2,199 breach of contract cases were reported by seafarers to the ITF in 2022, with non-payment of wages the most common reason.  

“While we are proud that our inspectors have been successful in recovering almost $120 million for seafarers in the last three years, it’s unfortunate that we need to address wage underpayments at all. We would prefer to see all seafarers paid in full, and paid on time in the first place,” said David Heindel, ITF Seafarers’ Section Chair and President of the Seafarers International Union. 

“For some seafarers, a shipowner might miss a pay date here or there, but others can go months without receiving their salaries. ITF inspectors, supported by our seafarer and docker union affiliates, are here to help crew stand up for their rights wherever they find themselves in need of support.” 

In 2022, ITF’s inspectors conducted 8,667 ship inspections worldwide. 1,878 of these were in response to seafarers’ calls, emails or messages for help from the ITF. 

A further 3,771 were conducted as part of inspectors’ ongoing system of routine and responsive inspections, which ensure ships flagged to Flags of Convenience (FOC) registries adhere to the same international standards expected of nationally flagged vessels. 

ITF President and Dockers’ Section Chair, Paddy Crumlin said: “Pandemic-related restrictions had blocked most of our inspectors from boarding vessels in the way they had done pre-pandemic. We are now seeing a strong return to active and regular inspections of Flags of Convenience vessels – and still the same level of exploitation. It's another stark reminder of the underbelly of our industry, and also that more ITF inspections taking place is good news for seafarers and their rights.”