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Accepted Paper:

Searching for the "Genuine Link" Between Maritime Labour and Flag States: An Anthropological Foray Into the Work of Labour Inspectors in the Shipping Industry  
Luisa Piart (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

Seafarers' labour is governed by important international norms. How do they stand in relation to the massive de-regulation of the shipping industry? This contribution focuses on labour inspectors and (inter)national organizations in charge of maintaining and enforcing maritime labour standards.

Paper long abstract:

The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea states that there must exist a "genuine link" between a vessel and the country whose flag it is flying. Thereafter employment matters on board merchant vessels have been primarily regulated by the law of the flag state. While this was meant to clarify jurisdiction over ships and improve working conditions of seafarers, it has been the engine of a multi-layered de-regulation in the shipping industry. The legal nature of the link between labour performed at sea and flag states is indeed notoriously obscure and contributes to the spread of so-called flags of convenience, as well as labour rights abuses. Today, more than 70% of the worldwide commercial fleet is registered under a flag of convenience.

Against (or in spite of) this backdrop, modern seafarers are incredibly busy with an endless paper trail of certificates, documents of compliance and record books. A number of inspectors, certifiers and auditors regularly go on board in order to issue certificates and check compliance with international norms on matters such as construction, navigational rules, and environmental protection. In recent years, minimum labour standards have been yet included to this existing regime of inspection. Based on current ethnographic fieldwork in London, Hamburg and Panama City, my contribution presents the work of inspectors upholding seafarers' labour rights and certifying their working conditions. It engages with anthropological debates concerning the economic re-regulation and is an attempt to think those in relation with the juridification of maritime labour.

Panel P059
Sea Economies: Labour, Infrastructure and New Techno-Environmental Horizons