The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and Seafarers' Rights International (SRI) report progress being made on the urgent issue of the criminalisation of seafarers. This follows the positive reception from the IMO's (International Maritime Organization) Legal Committee to a paper co-sponsored by the ITF, the International Federation of Shipmasters' Associations (IFSMA), the Comité Maritime International (CMI) and InterManager.
The paper analysed replies by member states to a survey conducted by SRI on the implementation into their national laws of the IMO/ILO (International Labour Organization) Guidelines on Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the Event of a Maritime Accident. This followed an SRI survey of 3,480 seafarers that suggested that the human and other legal rights of seafarers contained in the Guidelines are often subject to violation, causing widespread concern among seafarers.
The paper was supported by 31 member states, as well as by the International Chamber of Shipping, the Nautical Institute, the International Salvage Union, the Cruise Lines International Association and the International Christian Maritime Association.
In response, the Legal Committee concluded that technical support and assistance should be provided by the IMO's Technical Cooperation Committee in order to facilitate the wide implementation of the Guidelines on Fair Treatment to improve conditions for seafarers, taking into account human rights issues. The Committee commented on the ITF and SRI's 'excellent work' on fair treatment of seafarers, 'underscoring the importance of the subject and its relevance to the retention and recruitment of seafarers and the progressive development of the shipping industry'.
Stephen Cotton, General Secretary, ITF commented: "We are very pleased with the explicit support and recognition we received from 31 states and the industry for our ongoing work on fair treatment of seafarers. It is crucial that we are able to use the Guidelines with a consistent approach so that we can call on them not just as guidelines but in a way that can ensure a systematic global rollout that means that all seafarers are treated fairly in whatever jurisdiction they might arrive in."
David Heindel, Chair of the ITF Seafarers' Section, commented: "The Guidelines are based on human rights standards and they have real teeth. The industry as a whole has a big job, not only to educate seafarers, but to educate governments on applying the Guidelines so that seafarers have legal protections in the event they face an investigation and possible criminal charges following an incident in the course of their work. This is a priority for the ITF and our work on the subject will continue in association with our industry partners and SRI".
Jacqueline Smith, ITF Maritime Coordinator, added: "Seafarers need support. They can be criminalised in countries where they don't know the legal system, they don't know the culture, they don't speak the language, and they are guilty until proven innocent."
Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of SRI, concluded: "Our work on fair treatment is part of a major project that SRI has under way on the human rights of seafarers and fishers, a project involving judges, professors and law firms from all around the world. This work will lead to voluntary audits of interested parties and other guidance on potential breaches of human rights of all persons on board ships at sea. We are striving for a prosperous and efficient industry for employers and workers alike. This is underpinned by a solid understanding of rights and duties in the industry and we are committed to working to promote and advance all the rights of those working at sea."
To see the SRI Survey on Seafarers and the Criminal law visit here and to see relevant documents of the IMO Legal Committee on Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the event of a maritime accident visit here.