Reabanderando

Serán pérfidos!! a la comentada noticia de que les obligaban por ley a no discriminar en los salarios por la nacionalidad, la Cuanard y la P&O han respondido que les parece bien, pero que los trasatlánticos los van a re-abanderar en Bermuda y que salga el Sol por Antequera. Alguna vez lo he comentado, pero cuando navegue bajo la «red ensign» de Bermuda, los ingleses cobraban el mismo salario que yo, solo que ellos en libras y yo en dolares!!, los filipos cobraban aun menos.

A BRUSSELS diktat forcing the UK reluctantly to equalise pay for all European seafarers has cost the Red Ensign all five of its remaining cruiseships, shipping minister Mike Penning has asserted, writes David Osler.

However, he qualified his remarks by pointing out that claims by the Chamber of Shipping earlier this year that the move would spark a mass exodus have not been borne out.

The minister said he was “very, very disappointed” at Cunard’s decision to reflag Queen Mary II , Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth to Bermuda, and also at a parallel decision by P&O .

Carnival subsidiary Cunard attributed the switch to its inability to allow couples to be married on the vessels. The company sees on-board weddings as a significant marketing point. Mr Penning committed himself to introduce primary legislation to rectify this point as soon as possible.

But he argued that as well as the marriage issue, pay was part of Cunard’s thinking. He maintained: “I freely admit that when I was forced — and I stress forced — to equalise differential pay, this was part of the risk.”

The European Commission’s ruling over the New Year period resulted from pressure on the commission by shipping unions RMT and Nautilus International. Mr Penning insists he warned the two unions in advance of this likely consequence.

“P&O have deregistered two cruiseships with me in the last couple of days, and it has openly said it was to do with the differential pay. But to be positive about it, I was told there would be hundreds of ships deregistering, and that hasn’t happened — and I hope it doesn’t.”

Also on the bright side, he said that in the last couple of weeks he had had meetings with large shipowners that had pledged to come on to the UK flag. He declined to be drawn on their identities but said a formal announcement could be expected soon.

Mr Penning was speaking after making a statement in parliament on the Rebecca Coriam case, following the unexplained death of the cruiseship worker on board the Bahamian-flagged Disney Wonder in March this year.

Her parents have attracted considerable tabloid newspaper coverage for their demand that the UK should follow the US lead, and legislate to allow the British police to investigate such disappearances.

Mr Penning flatly ruled out such a step. He said that instead the Marine Accident Investigation Branch had been instructed to intervene in such cases. However, he accepted the UK could not tell other flag states what they should or should not be doing.

The minister has written to the Bahamian authorities to point out their obligations in respect of people on their ships in international waters, trying to establish where their investigation stands and whether the UK can assist their efforts.

“We have asked the MAIB to register as an interested party, so that we can start to gather information as well. The MAIB is a world leader in its field and what we are trying to say is, look, use us to help resolve what is going on.

“I have now instructed that, in all cases where a British citizen is involved, we will ask the MAIB to register its interest. A lot of flag states just do not have the capability to investigate as fully we would all like them to do. But I want to work with them, rather than say, ‘This is what you should do.’”

Mr Penning has also met International Maritime Organization secretary-general Efthimios Mitropoulos to ask that the issue be addressed internationally. The UK will push the issue at the IMO assembly later this month. Mr Penning also highlighted the Danny F2 case, in which two British seafarers died on a Panama-flagged livestock carrier in 2009, and the alleged rape and subsequent unexplained death of Safmarine cadet Akhona Geveza.

“One of the things that has shocked me in the short time I have had this job is that there is international law for the high seas that protects people, but it just isn’t strong enough. We must have a consensus as to how we investigate serious crimes and incidents that just don’t seem to be investigated with the rigour you, your readers and I think they should be.”

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