Prevention is better than cure

The ILO 8.7 Accelerator Lab supports the Ghana Maritime Authority in strategic compliance of fishing vessels with provisions of C188 linked to forced labour

Article | 31 October 2023
Is patience always a virtue? When it comes to the working and living conditions of fishers on Ghanaian registered vessels, the Ghana Maritime Authority says no. “We are not waiting for the C188 to come into force but have issued shipping notices to cater for the more important aspects of the Convention that we think should be implemented immediately”, explains Awudu Enusah, Principal Maritime Administrative Officer of the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA). The provisions in question of the ILO's Work in Fishing Convention No. 188 (2007) were laid out in a series of shipping notices issued last year that led to the detention and refurbishment of 80% of Ghana’s trawler fleet.

Ghana Maritime Authority inspecting a fishing vessel in Tema Port with the support of the 8.7 Accelerator Lab.
Now the priority is to ensure that these minimum standards are maintained, and pre-departure inspections are a crucial for this. Following consultations through Ghana’s Tripartite Committee on Work in Fishing, the GMA issued a notice stating that, as of 1st November 2023, all Ghanaian flagged vessels are required to provide a minimum 72-hour notice period before departure to allow for a GMA inspector enough time to schedule a pre-departure inspection and to maintain the minimum standards established last year.

We are not waiting for C188 to come into force."

Mr Awudu Enusah, Principal Maritime Administrative Officer, Ghana Maritime Authority

During capacity building sessions carried out by the 8.7 Accelerator Lab’s Multi-Partner Fund, the links between forced labour indicators and provisions in the Work in Fishing Convention were highlighted. There are a number of forced labour indicators that are directly addressed in Convention 188 and the Ghana Maritime Authority has set about preventing them through various shipping notices.
  • Excessive overtime for example, the most common form of involuntariness according to the Global Estimates on Forced Labour, is limited by C188 to 14 hours a day, 6 days a week.
  • Abusive living and working conditions, another forced labour indicator, is addressed by provisions stipulating the minimum size and maximum capacity of sleeping areas and mandating safe drinking water and adequate food on aboard.
  • Withholding of wages, the most common form of coercion according to the Global Estimates, is prohibited and regular monthly payments are mandated.
  • Debt bondage is also prevented by prohibiting recruitment fees charged to the fisher.
  • Deception is avoided by mandating individual work agreements in a language the fisher understands signed by both parties


The inspection checklist of the Ghana Maritime Authority has been modified to incorporate C188 provisions.

It is one thing to issue a shipping notice or a code of conduct or even to pass a law establishing minimum labour standards and something else entirely to ensure implementation and hold vessel owners accountable. In this regard, the GMA now has two good practices to share: 1) by banning the onboarding of fishers at sea, a dangerous transshipment practice, GMA is able to verify the work agreements of each fisher before they start work and now 2) the 72-hour notice for pre-departure inspections means that non-compliances can be addressed before they ever occur.

This mechanism integrates the political commitment of government, empowerment of workers and willingness of employers to eliminate forced labour in commercial marine fishing."

Emmanuel Kwame Mensah, 8.7 Accelerator Lab National Project Coordinator in Ghana
“This practical policy product from the government is a reflection of the combined effect of the acceleration factors that are the focus of our initiative”, explains Emmanuel Kwame Mensah, National Project Coordinator for the 8.7 Accelerator Lab in Ghana. “The shared knowledge of the Tripartite Committee on Working and Living Conditions onboard Fishing Vessels is translated into an effective tool for urging compliance with International Labour Standards in the fishing industry. This mechanism integrates the political commitment of government, empowerment of workers and willingness of employers to eliminate forced labour in commercial marine fishing and is an innovative learning point that the ILO is excited to share across the region."

The Multi Partner Fund of the 8.7 Accelerator Lab is also working with the Fisheries Committee for the Western Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) to scale up these good practices and to avoid unscrupulous vessels changing port to avoid inspection. The tide is steadily turning for labour rights in the fishing sector.

Resources:
To find out more about the 8.7 Accelerator Lab, visit www.ilo.org/87acceleratorlab
To find out more about the FCWC, visit www.fcwc-fish.org
To discover more about the ILO’s work on fishing, click here