Minister of International Business and International Transport, George Hutson (FP)

Barbadian authorities are moving to address the sub-standard working conditions which are affecting seafarers, and to implement measures that will counter the possibility of piracy.

This was underlined by Minister of International Business and International Transport, George Hutson, who has given the assurance that his ministry was making strides in addressing the two issues now affecting the sector.

He made these comments last Saturday while addressing a luncheon to honour 68 seafarers in Barbados at The Beach House Bar and Restaurant in Holetown, St. James.

"My Ministry is working in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour to have the International Maritime Labour Convention 2006 ratified by Barbados," he said.

The Minister explained that the Convention would set new standards for maritime labour on-board ships, and would ensure compliance and enforcement as it related to accommodation and recreational facilities on the vessels.

He added that the Convention would also address conditions of employment and the minimum requirements for seafarers to work on ships, the minimum age for employment on-board ships, food and catering, health, medical, welfare and social security.

However, he expressed concern over declining employment opportunities for seafarers in Barbados over the past 20 to 25 years. "[This is] primarily due to the British shipping industry being restructured," Mr. Hutson explained.

He recalled the days when Barbados was considered as the "mecca" for seafaring employment opportunities in the Caribbean, with several Barbadians being employed by British ships such as the Harrison Line Company and Blue Star Line Limited.

"…Employment opportunities increased to such an extent that local authorities were forced to source seafarers from other Caribbean islands in order to meet the demand, which, at its zenith, amounted to over 5 000 seafarers being employed," he noted.

However, a number of Barbadians who worked mainly on British ships lost employment when those vessels were sold or reflagged, he pointed out.

To counter this, Mr. Hutson said emphasis was being placed on training and retraining seafarers to embrace and capitalise on new opportunities on-board the vessels and in the maritime sector.

During his address, he told those present that six Barbadians were presently enrolled as nautical cadets at the Caribbean Maritime Institute in Jamaica, pursuing studies in seamanship, navigational watch and marine engineering services.

Meanwhile, he added that efforts were also being made to address the issue of piracy plaguing seafarers worldwide.

Mr. Hutson said Barbados was, at the time, working with the international community through the International Maritime Organisation to implement best management practices aboard Barbadian vessels to forestall any incidents of piracy.

"Even though piracy is not a major issue in this region at this point in time, Barbados, like other states, is mindful that any occurrence can impact negatively on our vital cruise tourism industry," he pointed out.

The Minister gave the assurance that the Barbados government would be monitoring the scourge presently affecting the shipping industry.


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