If there is a sector which, both in its organization and in its results, can be seen as the poster child for capitalist globalization, it must be maritime transportation. Roseline Vachetta, a member of the Regional Policy Committee for Transport and Tourism at the European Parliament, discusses this issue here. There are some “trash-container” ships which concentrate all the ingredients and all the opacity of capitalist globalization. For example, in the case of the Prestige, we find: an obscenely rich Greek shipowner, a Liberian dummy corporation, a Bahamian flag of convenience, an Asian crew, North American and French offices for inspection and verification of nautical procedures, Russian heavy fuel oil and disaster management undertaken by the Spanish and French states. As the first generalized form of large-scale outsourcing to the Third World, maritime transportation underwent an expansion of 430% over 30 years and in particular a reduction in costs of 30% in the past decade. This chain of complacency generates maximum profits for some and endless misery for many others.
It is necessary to break this chain of complacency by radical means. The oceans must no longer be a lawless zone! The links between the shipowner and the state must be clear, the contracts with the ship charterer must be well-defined, and the statutes of the crew must be compliant with the rules of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Dummy corporations which evade all legislation must be declared illegal. The criminal penalties must be commensurate with the damage caused.
It is necessary to implement true public service on the seas. This is certainly an ambitious project, but it is essential. It encompasses public shipyards, the training of ship crews, whose statutes must be clearly established, and construction options which meet the requirements, notably for vessels satisfying high safety standards.