THERE seems to have been little change in the wage rates of seamen over the past 12 months, according to the International Shipping Federation. The federation is collating returns of its 1994 wage survey covering chief officers and able seamen of different nationalities. For seafarers paid in US dollars, principally those from Asian, Indian and eastern European countries serving on open registry vessels, the depreciation of local currencies against the dollar last year provided an increase in real wages, which in most cases outstripped any rise in the cost of living, the federation said in its 1993-94 annual report. Modest increases of about two per cent in the principal collective agreements covering Indian and Filipino seafarers serving on Norwegian and Danish international registry ships confirmed the trend towards low single-figure settlements in these countries. These raised further questions about the legitimacy of the International Transport Workers Federation's demand for a 10 per cent increase across the board, the report said. With inflation coming down in many industrialised countries, wage increases had been modest, usually in single figures. ''In certain European countries there are signs that wage increases may have begun to creep upwards against the 1992 situation, but overall the trend is stable,'' the report said. The 1993 survey continued to show wide disparities between maximum and minimum wage rates. According to the country of residence, monthly wage rates last year varied from almost US$14,000 a month to less than $700 for chief officers, and from more than $7,000 to $300 for able seamen. ''The significant differences between these extremes illustrate the importance of crew nationality on operating costs,'' the report said. Although the results of the federation's annual survey are open to interpretation, it does provide a broad picture of the wage differentials between various nationalities. The report was issued ahead of a council meeting in Madrid last week. In his introductory remarks, federation president Juan Kelly outlined the principal task facing the body. ''We can no longer assume that we will continue to be blessed with a ready supply of high quality seafarers . . . difficulties are foreseen in finding future seafarers of appropriate calibre. ''Our objective, simply stated, must be to help shipowners to achieve quality operation through consistent levels of seafarer competence in a framework of balanced legislation.'' He said improved training techniques were being formulated, more attractive career paths created and recognition given to the need for shipowners to apply the good working and living conditions offered by the great majority. However, he noted that reports of seafarers being stranded without wages and of other forms of employment malpractices continued to attract attention, although it was difficult to judge the scale of these problems.