ITF: Cabo Delgado is Too Dangerous for Crew Changes

cabo delgado
Ansar Al-Sunna propaganda photo released by Islamic State Central Africa (via Jasmine Opperman / Twitter)

Published Jun 29, 2021 8:43 PM by The Maritime Executive

The International Transport Workers' Federation has been at the forefront of recent efforts to ensure that seafarers have access to crew change in every region - except one. ITF is now calling for a halt to all crew changes in northern Mozambique, citing the extreme risk of kidnapping and violence from the ISIS-affiliated terror group Ansar-al-Sunna.

This Islamist militant group was initially known for beheadings, but it has shifted its strategy to attempting the take-over of entire towns in Mozambique’s northernmost region. In past raids, Ansar-al-Sunna fighters have specifically targeted foreign workers - including workers associated with Total's now-canceled Mozambique LNG project. More than 50 local children have been kidnapped in the area over the course of the past year, and ITF is concerned that disembarking or oncoming crewmembers could be the next targets.

With ITF's support, the Norwegian Maritime Unions (NMU) are calling for a crew change suspension in the region until the threat to seafarers’ lives is reduced. ITF is extending the NMU’s call to all the world’s shipowners to steer clear of the conflict area in Cabo Delgado province and to issue instructions to their ship management firms and manning agencies to do the same. 

“The security situation in Cabo Delgado is dire,” said Johnny Hansen, president of the Norwegian Seafarers’ Union, one of the three unions that form the NMU. “Foreign workers are being targeted by terrorists, and seafarers will be no exception. Their lives are in danger. Asking seafarers to come ashore, to stay in Covid quarantine facilities, while the volatile situation happening outside risks their very lives? That is unacceptable. Seafarers could be killed or taken hostage on their way to airports and harbors."

Hansen said that NMU's objective is to convince shipowners to make crew change arrangements at other locations, away from Cabo Delgado. According to ITF, the nearby ports of Biera, Nacala and Maputo are preferable options. 

“All we are asking for is that the owners of ships serving northern Mozambique make alternative plans so that their crew changes can take place elsewhere, somewhere safer," Hansen said.