The abandonment of seafarers is a growing problem around the world and it is being exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Abandonment can occur for a number of reasons such as when the shipowner fails to cover the cost of a seafarer's repatriation, fails in providing maintenance/support or otherwise unilaterally severs ties with its seafarers including a failure to pay wages for at least two months.
Such failures have resulted in desperate situations for some crews with the fate of the Panama-flagged MT Iba a notable example. The 5,000 ton tanker has been grounded off the coast of Umm Al Quwain in the United Arab Emirates in an experience that has now lasted four years. The crew are in limbo - they face losing years of unpaid wages amounting to a collective $4 million if they disembark the vessel.
Such depressing events are becoming more frequent and according to Lloyd's List Maritime Intelligence, the abandonment of seafarers is rising and reached a record high last year. 76 cases were recorded in 2020 involving more than 1,000 seafarers compared to 40 cases and 474 individuals in 2019. The hotspots for abandonment are the Middle East and Asia with the UAE topping the list for the number of cases observed in 2020. Its reputation as the worst country for these incidents is likely down to the fact that it has not ratified the Maritime Labour Convention.