Sri Lanka dodged the bullet but in the first of what may be several such cases to come, the European Commission has withdrawn recognition of STCW certificates issued by Georgia. The entire Georgian Maritime Administration has been fired and criminal prosecutions are being considered.
Says the country’s President, Mikheil Saakashvili: “… Now you see what type of results could be brought by someone’s incompetence, laziness, corruptness and crime”.
Based on the inspections held in 2006 the European Commission decided to determinate recognition of the country’s STCW certificates enabling EU member states to hire Georgian seafarers since 2001.
The unprecedented move has led Georgian Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Vera Kobalia to fire the heads of the United Transportation Administration and appoint Captain Mamuka Akhaladze as head of the Maritime Administration.
After several letters between Georgia and the EU regarding identified shortcomings the commission said: “The evaluation of the replies of the Georgian authorities, which was conducted by the Commission, confirmed that the information provided address only a very minor part of these deficiencies, while it revealed that the majority of the deficiencies that were identified during the assessment of compliance remain unresolved… These non-conformities affect various core provisions of the STCW Convention and risk affecting the overall level of competence of seafarers holding certificates issued by Georgia”.
A particular problem is forged certificates.
It is expected that Bulgaria will ask the EU to reinstate recognition of Georgian certificates but the process is likely to take a long time.
An angry Mikheil Saakashvili says: “The situation is very tough in (the) maritime sphere. This sphere had been destroying during the years. You know very well what happened in 90s. We have received several warning letters. I am referring to the letter sent by EU Ambassador that was sent on January 29. He was warning us on the possibility of putting Georgia on the black list. Such a letter was sent to us on April 1 as well. In one month we have received a warning again and now we are facing the situation due to which thousands of people might be left without any income.
“This concerns not only sailors, but also their families and relatives. Especially people in Batumi and Poti might be left without any income. Envisaging the fact that these are people who buy apartments, construct new houses in these cities, employ people at construction sites and in general take their shares in country’s economy – this fact might become a he problem for Black-Sea region economy and for concrete families”.
It needs to be determined and Prosecutor’s Office will investigate it. We made a decision to release all employees of existing Maritime Administration. These people will directly be responsible for the existing situation in this sphere. No matter what we say – it was a huge drop in education system. The example of it is that academy was abandoned. Only pretty building was left from this academy. It is true that we have several good cadres, but in reality maritime sphere experiences a full collapse. This is why we need to extend all these decisions in future. By the way people, who were dealing with this sphere have to be held responsible as well. Practically the government should be fully responsible for this issue. Everybody had to start alarm before we experienced the total collapse of this sphere and first three sailors were left without any jobs. No one had warned me and the Prime Minister about this matter.
“Now we need to take serious measures and bring this sphere in order, like we do in other spheres. It is good that the Ministry of Economy started dealing with this problem, but we have lost a lot of time before this”
Sri Lanka, according to the commission, “complies with the relevant requirements of the STCW Convention. Sri Lanka has also taken appropriate measures to prevent fraud involving certificates and should thus be recognised by the Union”.