I read with interest an item on the Isle of Man Ship Registry Site that a new seafarers ‘welfare app’ has gone live which should enable over 10,000 crewmen on Manx flagged vessels to access information, get advice and communicate concerns;
‘Everything comes to those who wait’ I mused!
It was over two decades ago that the then DTI Minister David North MHK invited me to attend a conference with ‘the great and good’ of the Manx shipping fraternity which was held at the Palace Hotel. David was always a genial individual and in those days Manx Ministers were less remote than they are these days and more disposed towards the Trade Unions than under Howards current regime. A guest speaker David informed me was Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry the Director of Labour Standards at the ILO (International Labour Organisation) – a lady I found to be extremely personable and who I spent an enjoyable day with after the conference . The TGWU (of which I was RIO) together with NUMAST and NUS were members of the ITF so I thought ‘I may as well attend’.
For a conference about the sea it was a fairly ‘dry’ affair however I managed to enliven proceedings when I suggested in the ‘Comments and Q & A session’ at its conclusion that seafarers on Manx flagged vessels should have the ability to raise concerns about conditions and welfare directly with the Manx government or its agencies. Indeed the assembled multitude seemed astonished when I suggested it might even be considered that they should (as they were on Manx vessels) have access to our IRS (Manx Industrial Relations Service) . All manner of impediments to such outlandish ideas were raised by the ship owners and companies including the practical difficulties of ‘communications’. I recall expressing my bemusement that ‘communications’ from any ship globally at the conclusion of the twentieth century should be a problem – observing we had ‘moved on since the days of the windjammers’!
Anyway now twenty years later finally seafarers on the many hundreds of Manx registered vessels will have a ‘welfare app’. I wonder how many will use it, or indeed be allowed to? I wonder what the conditions are like in relation to pay, leave etc for the rank and file?
I bet companies with ships registered here are making ‘a tidy living’. I bet folk who work for those companies in Mann make a tidy living. I bet the folk down at the Department for Enterprise Shipping registry have a cosy time.
It would be nice to know what life’s ‘really like’ for the folks sailing the seas on what are technically little bits of the Isle of Man but who never get to grace our shores.
Anyway since we’re in the mood here’s a sea shanty:
Image: Manx shipping flag – Inset: Was I ‘all at sea’ two decades ago, perhaps not!
Assistant General Secretary Celtic League (15th January 2021)