Tue | Mar 2, 2021

New shipping law to benefit seafarers

Published:Saturday | December 12, 2020 | 12:17 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter

The Senate yesterday passed the Shipping (Amendment) Act, 2020, with two adjustments to make more complete provisions for the rights and living conditions of seafarers in line with the Maritime Labour Convention.

Piloting the bill in the Upper House, Kamina Johnson Smith, foreign affairs and foreign trade minister, said the new law will provide protection for Jamaicans when they are aboard a foreign-flagged vessel in Jamaican waters. It will also provide coverage for Jamaican seafarers aboard Jamaican ships wherever they are in the world.

Johnson Smith, the leader of government business in the Senate, pointed out that under the current Shipping Act, only the crew or those responsible for navigation are accorded certain rights. She said that other workers are left to “the kindness of their employers or depending on the nationality of the flagged ship, bear observance of the convention for our workers on their ship”.

She told her colleagues in the Senate that the bill makes better provisions for the maintenance of standards within the shipping industry, locally and internationally, promoting respect for the dignity of each person notwithstanding the role they perform on a ship.

Opposition Senator Floyd Morris welcomed the new bill that established a regime to prevent the exploitation of minors on ships.

“We don’t subscribe to that kind of employment regime of employing minors to work on ships,” he said.

Government Senator Kavan Gayle hailed the contribution of seafarers saying they have played a key role as part of the workforce that keeps world trade going during the pandemic.

In her contribution to the debate, Opposition Senator Janice Allen suggested that the Government should consider front-line workers, including seafarers, among those persons to receive the vaccine against COVID-19 when it becomes available locally.