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Capt. F.J.van Wijnen (Gen Secretary, act)
Capt. T. Rossignol (President)
Capt. W. von Pressentin (Dep. President)
  Dear colleagues and friends,

       After nine years of more than involvement in CESMA, time has come to step down, both as President and Board member, as Statutes indicate. It will not be easy, as the Confederation has become part of my life. Circumstances have developed in such a way that, just in these recent times, the importance to unite for European shipmasters have become a very important item. Their existence is in real danger as more and more European shipping companies are threatening to replace their European shipmasters and officers for cheaper counterparts from Eastern Europe and the Far East. Standards are lowered because of the introduction of the STCW95 convention, which has brought down the level of education and training all over the world, apart from some Far Eastern nations. The IMO was sensible enough to call their convention a guideline for the lowest acceptable level of professionalism. Any nation was free to interpret the convention to its own necessities and standards, as long as the set level was respected. What happened next is that most European nations brought down their own national levels to the STCW95 convention for reasons not so difficult to understand. Seafaring is simple, you only have to bring the vessel from A to B. The shore organisation will do the rest. Which shore organisation and which are their qualifications?
       Responsibility is still with the ship and no Code of Commerce has changed and will not change in this respect. There is an international complot to degrade the seafaring profession with only one reason, to upgrade profits by employing the lowest grade of personnel, with the consent of the IMO, as part of the United Nations.

       EU shipmasters and officers cannot in any way compete on costs with their eastern counterparts. We have seen this in the textile industry, the car industry and many others. The seafaring profession will be the next, most probably followed by the airline personnel. The last however are much better organised, making them a more difficult nut to crack for employers with dollar signs in their eyes. Still I suggest that we do not accept all these downgrading methods by remembering politicians that we cannot do without European seafarers. Not for operating ships in times of crisis but also not for the general maritime knowledge and experience in the EU maritime industry. The EU Council of transport ministers decided last December that something had to be done to turn the tide. Promoting a seafaring career for European citizens will be a key issue in the coming years. CESMA will be there to offer its co-operation.

       When we are talking about the seafaring profession, we talk about seafaring and not going ashore after two or three years. There has always been a tendency for seafarers to go ashore for a number of reasons. Nowadays however it looks like a kind of disease, sometimes even encouraged by teachers at some maritime institutes in the EU. Apart from the cost incentive, it has been the second reason for some European shipowners to do away with EU seafarers. They maintain that they cannot depend on EU seafarers to guarantee a proper personnel policy for the future. If they employ crew from the East, mostly from crewing agencies, they can draw a proper personnel plan.

       Maintaining a fleet under the own national flag in Europe has long been an issue of prestige. It works for self-esteem of the nation as well as for work for the national administration officers. Moreover the more tonnage under the national flag, the more influence can be exercised at the IMO, which again creates work for the “boys”. These are the reasons for the weak knees of many national administrations to allow foreign crews and even captains on their national flag ships. In fact administrations are giving facilities to shipowners, even after the introduction of the tonnage tax, to retain ships under their national flag. These ships should disappear under a flag of convenience where they belong. They carry nothing of the nation under which flag they are operating and are in fact falsely using the image of nations with a longstanding maritime tradition. The good element is that in due time, shippers, insurance companies and customers will find out who they are dealing with.

       It is in fact the EU itself who has a very strong incentive and necessity to maintain a prominent EU seafaring tradition within its borders. A continent which leaves production of goods more or less to third world nations, should not depend on these same nations for carrying these goods. That leaves EU citizens only as only consumers, spending money for how long, before we are totally dependent. This should not happen.

       The Confederation of European Shipmasters’ Association strongly recommends to the European Parliament and European Commission to pay attention to maritime skills and experience of Europeans within the EU with proper regulation for just rewarding and treatment for seafarers. If it involves subsidies, so be it. Many other branches in the EU receive subsidies, why not this important industry. If the EU requires a proper control of their funds spent, the original idea of a European flag comes to light. European flagged ships manned with EU seafarers. I still hope to see the day that this becomes a true story with a happy ending for the real European maritime industry, the EU seafarer and of course CESMA.

Capt. Fredrik J. Van Wijnen


RESOLUTION Nr.1 (Criminalisation of shipmasters):

       The 11th General Assembly of CESMA at Nice on 29 April 2006 noted with great concern that the issue of criminalisation of shipmasters has not improved. Also that no progress in fundamentally solving the problem and protecting the position of the shipmaster, has been reached. Neither the international organisations IMO nor ILO were able to issue more than guidelines in this respect. CESMA is of the opinion that an international binding convention to protect seafarers against unfair treatment is a necessity. The recent reached ”Code of fair treatment for seafarers” at the ILO conference in Geneva could be an option in this respect. Criminalisation of seafarers is not only a breach of human rights, it also gives a very wrong signal to those who aspire after a seafaring career. CESMA again asks attention of all international bodies concerned, in particular the European Commission and the European Parliament, to take part in solving this important issue.

RESOLUTION Nr.2 (Introduction of E-navigation):

       The same assembly noted that the European Commission intends to promote and support the development of E-navigation on board ships to improve maritime safety. The CESMA assembly supports this initiative but maintains that E-navigation should only be promoted as a supporting system to the navigator. The system should never be able to oppose or overrule decisions by the responsible officer of the watch, who remains responsible for a safe navigation of the vessel.

RESOLUTION Nr.3 (Alcohol on board):

       During the 11th AGA, CESMA noted with great concern that the discussion on the use of alcohol on board ships in several EU nations and with major shipping companies will lead to a zero tolerance level. CESMA considers stipulations as laid down in the respective IMO convention as sufficient for safe navigation practices. During discussions about this issue, it is always completely ignored that seafarers have their homes on board for many weeks or months, sometimes without proper possibility to go ashore. CESMA considers the zero-option unreasonable and discriminatory. However the Confederation clearly underlines its position that abuse of alcohol on board ships, especially during duty, should be met with severe countermeasures and sanctions.

RESOLUTION Nr.4 (Safe manning and fatigue):

       During the same AGA, the Assembly was of the opinion that the EU directive 1999/63/EC on seafarers’ working hours, cannot always be adhered to, as practical experience shows. Reason is in- sufficient manning. Moreover the lists of working hours do not always reflect the real situation. Also on ships with the 6 on / 6 off watch system, especially on those manned with only two certified watch officers including the shipmaster, who are sometimes also responsible for the engine room, it is impossible to maintain the rest hour requirements, with the consequence of causing fatigue and related accidents. The CESMA 11th AGA strongly asks attention to the respective EU bodies, including EMSA, to take appropiate measures to solve this problem in the interest of maritime safety, the marine environment and the well-being of the seafarer, the shipmaster in particular.

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