What to do if you are abandoned and stranded on board

Since 2008 incidents of abandonment have risen across the world, as ship-owners come under increasing financial pressure. Ships are abandoned at anchorage or in port when wages are not able to be paid, or cargo unloading fees have not been paid.

Abandonment at sea is often a calculated economic decision by a ship owner facing bankruptcy, insolvency or the arrest of a vessel by creditors.

In many cases, vessels are abandoned after they are deemed unseaworthy and detained by port state control inspectors.

The International Labour Organization keeps a global databases of reported current and resolved abandonment cases. (Opens in a new windown.)

The Mission to Seafarers believes however, that these cases represent only a proportion of the total number of on-going cases. Many cases of abandonment regrettably go unreported.

What you can do?

There are some warning signs that you should look out for which may indicate that your ship is facing abandonment. Your wages are unpaid, supplies run out and you lack fuel, food and water or shore leave is denied. Your ship is detained in port. If your ship is not seaworthy or has any problems with safety you may be at risk of abandonment.

If you are worried about abandonment, please talk to your senior officers. You can also talk to the local port state authority, the International Transport Workers' Federation in port and you should contact Mission port chaplains in confidence for help.

Under the Maritime Labour Convention (2006) you have the right to seek financial assistance, for up to four months. This is for food, supplies, medical assistance and for repatriation.

If the shipowner refuses to help, then the ship's flag state has a responsibility to repatriate you. If they do no you should also contact your embassy.

You should instruct a lawyer if you are at risk of detention and deportation.

Seafarers' Rights International provides more help on the subject of abandonment. (Opens in a new window.)