The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is cheering the suspension of a Filipino recruitment agency’s licence following complaints it charged placement fees.

The union said on Tuesday that it documented four cases in which Manila-based Global Marine and Offshore Resources charged seafarers fees between $600 and $1,000 for placement aboard ships, among other questionable practices and provided evidence to the government in Manila.

Placement fees are banned by the Maritime Labour Convention and Philippines law.

“It’s great that the Filipino government has taken this action, and I hope our evidence convinces them to permanently ban Global Marine,” ITF inspectorate coordinator Steve Trowsdale said in a statement.

“But truthfully, this should never have happened. The manning agency system — regulated by the Filipino authorities — is supposed to protect seafarers from unscrupulous employers. In the cases of these four seafarers, that system clearly failed.”

In addition to charging the fees, the four seafarers were offered contracts for employment in Dubai on either the 5,326-dwt general cargoship Clivia (built 2009) or the 110-dwt offshore supply vessel Muru (built 1980).

None ended up on the Clivia, while three were placed on the Muru, which the ITF said was “in terrible condition” and claimed their contracts could be dismissed given the state of the ship and the mismatch between their contract terms and employment.

A fourth was put on a small support vessel and became ill, with Global Marine and Offshore claiming he had a pre-existing condition while the seafarer argued he was sickened by the low-quality drinking water offered on the ship.

The ITF said the placement fees were reimbursed, but the four are still allegedly owed wages.

The union said one seafarer settled for $3,000, less than half of the nearly $8,000 he was owed. The other three are claiming two months’ pay totalling $11,900.

Philippines law, as well as the Maritime Labour Convention, bans placement fees. Photo: Bob Rust

Global Marine and Offshore was added to the ITF’s Ship Be Sure registry’s red list before the suspension. The site tracks recruitment agencies and publishes information for seafarers on finding a manning agent.

Those deemed to be engaged in poor or illegal practices are put on the red list.

Global Marine and Offshore’s website appeared to be down on Tuesday and a message to a listed email address on the Ship Be Sure site was not immediately returned.

The Muru is connected to the Sinbad Navigation, a company based in the United Arab Emirates.

In a statement to TradeWinds, Sinbad said it delivered provisions to the Muru and a note signed and stamped by the captain confirming their receipt was sent to the ITF.

The company further said the ship would have been scrapped if a charter had not been offered. It claimed that incompetence by the captain and chief engineer prevented contractors from carrying out necessary repairs.

Sinbad said outstanding salaries have all been paid and proof of remittance was sent to the union.

“Seafarers should be very wary of an agency that charges a placement fee,” Trowsdale said. “Sometimes they break the law like this because they don’t expect to be paid by the shipowner. That should be a red flag — you may not be paid either.”