Government Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Director Generals and Permanent Representatives from the world’s leading maritime nations, including many crew supply countries, joined leading international judges, barristers, prosecutors and seafarer associations at the event to discuss the key issue of Guidelines on fair treatment of seafarers in the event of a maritime accident and explore ways these Guidelines could be implemented into national legislation.
Seafarers facing legal problems can now obtain immediate information concerning their rights, wherever they are in the world, with a new app formally launched today by Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI) after three months of user testing.
Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of SRI said: “Seafarers need tangible support 24/7. There are many good companies and maritime administrations who provide seafarers with assistance and support with regard to their human rights. However where that is not the case, this app will provide a lifeline for seafarers. The app has been designed to operate offline so that seafarers can access information at all times.
It is compatible with iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry devices.
The app has a unique ‘Find a Lawyer’ tool which gives immediate access to a database of lawyers around the world who have signed up to the SRI Charter – a statement of good practice in the provision of legal services to seafarers – and who may be able to offer assistance to seafarers facing criminal prosecution.”
Brian Orrell OBE, Chairman of the Advisory Board of SRI said:
“It is important that the work of SRI gets directly to seafarers. This is why this practical advice is now being made available on an app, and we are also producing on-line education materials free of charge for seafarers to raise their awareness around subjects relevant to their working lives. This education will ensure that seafarers’ rights are real and meaningful for them.”
Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI) has raised concerns about the implications for masters of the recent reports of the launch of the new EU Frontex operation ‘Triton’ which will apparently have a reduced budget and focus on border control in place of the Italian ‘Mare Nostrum’ that is credited with saving more than 150,000 migrants in the Mediterranean. Read more
The Legal Committee of the International Maritime Organisation has endorsed continuing work to promote as widely as possible the application of the 2006 Guidelines on the fair treatment of seafarers in the event of a maritime accident.
The decision, agreed at the 101st session of the IMO Legal Committee meeting on 28 April – 2 May 2014, followed a survey of IMO member states conducted by Seafarers’ Rights International requesting information on how the states had passed the Guidelines into their laws, or otherwise given effect to the Guidelines.
Some member states who replied to the survey either had already passed all or some of the principles of the Guidelines into their laws, or they already had existing laws to protect the rights of seafarers. However other states still have the Guidelines under consideration and indicated that model legislation, or information from the IMO, would assist them regarding the meaning of the Guidelines and the passing of the Guidelines into their laws.
The IMO Legal Committee called on further states to answer the survey, and for the responses to be analysed, and for the analysis be reported back to the next session of the Legal Committee in 2015.
Commenting on the outcome of the meeting, Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of SRI said: “Fair treatment of seafarers has been at the core of the work of SRI since its start up. The recent tragic incident of the South Korean ferry disaster Sewol, and the heart breaking loss of life, has been exacerbated by an apparent rush to judgment and early condemnation of the master and the crew. What we seek is a fair and just process in accordance with the Guidelines in every case.”
She added, “It is not just high profile incidents that affect seafarers. Seafarers face many risks crossing maritime boundaries on a daily basis, and knowing that they will be accorded fair and proper treatment will make the profession more attractive for new recruits.”
Seafarers Rights International has welcomed the strengthening of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) to give greater protection to crew against abandonment and in cases of claims for workplace death or long-term disability.
Commenting on the amendments, adopted at the first meeting of the Special Tripartite Committee of the MLC which concluded on Friday 11 April 2014, Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of SRI said: “SRI has studied the laws of abandonment in more than 30 countries and currently there does not appear to be any provision for compulsory financial security that can be directly accessed by seafarers in the event of their abandonment.
“The amendments to the MLC now provide for such security. If the amendments are enacted into national law, including effective operation of a financial security system, then seafarers should be protected from the worst consequences of abandonment. We therefore welcome these amendments, but it is too early to celebrate the notion that seafarers are now immediately and comprehensively protected from abandonment.”
Amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention 2006, agreed at the meeting, will ensure the provision of financial security systems to assist seafarers in the event of their abandonment and for compensation for seafarers’ contractual claims for death and personal injury. However, they now need to be approved at the June meeting of the International Labour Conference. If approved they will require member states to ensure ships sailing under their flags maintain a financial security system to cover contingencies such as personal injury or death, long-term disability or abandonment. Vessels will be required to carry on board a certificate proving their coverage, in the form of either insurance, a national fund, social security scheme or similar arrangements.
Commenting on amendments pertaining to contractual claims for death or long term disability of seafarers, Ms Fitzpatrick said: “Again the solution to require financial security could mean an effective recourse for seafarers or their families facing potentially complex legal claims for compensation due to an occupational illness or hazard. The effective working of financial security will be pivotal in both abandonment and injury or death claims.
“Our efforts must continue to ensure that both these amendments are not theoretical, but deliver for seafarers practical and enforceable rights,” she emphasized.
In an important contribution to the legal support of seafarers worldwide, SRI (Seafarers’ Rights International) has launched a Charter of Good Practice for the Provision of Legal Services to Seafarers.
“For seafarers, seeking the advice of a lawyer can be one of the most stressful events of their career,” says Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of SRI. “Not only are they dealing with the effects of the incident that has led them to that point, but they are also pursuing a course of action which too often seems fraught with confusion, difficulties and worries about expense.
“The first hurdle often is to find a reputable lawyer who is knowledgeable about seafarers’ rights’ issues, and who is willing and able to represent the seafarer at a reasonable cost.
“The Charter is a set of professional ethics to bind lawyers working in any jurisdiction around the world, taking into account the particular concerns of seafarers. It provides reassurance that the seafarer client will be treated in a certain way.
“As part of our work, we frequently encounter seafarers in need of legal assistance. Whilst we do not recommend one lawyer or law firm over another, we hope it can assist seafarers to have access to a list of lawyers who have signed up to and accepted that they are bound by the principles in the Charter.
“Subscribers to the Charter are lawyers professionally licensed to practice in their respective jurisdictions. We are delighted to say that the response to the Charter so far has been excellent and over 100 lawyers from 50 different law firms across 34 countries worldwide have committed to it.
“SRI will keep the list of subscribing lawyers and law firms under review and we call on other lawyers with relevant expertise to visit our website and to contact us if they wish to subscribe to the Charter. We hope also that other bodies in the industry will work with us to maximise the number of expert lawyers to whom seafarers can have ready access.”
Full details of the SRI Charter of Good Practice for the Provision of Legal Services to Seafarers, and subscribing lawyers can be found at
Seafarers’ suggestions on how to improve their situation when facing criminal charges were presented at the landmark 100th session of the Legal Committee of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) which met in London on 15 – 19 April, 2013.
The suggestions, which emanated from a comprehensive eight language survey conducted by Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI) over a 12-month period to February 2012, focus as much on fears of their own human rights being violated as on a lack of due process in the criminal process.
A total of 3,480 completed questionnaires were submitted by seafarers from 68 different nationalities.
According to the seafarers themselves, there is a frequent lack of due process for seafarers who face criminal charges. Seafarers are complaining of unfair treatment, intimidation and a lack of legal representation and interpretation services. Almost half of the seafarers in the survey said that they would be reluctant to co-operate fully and openly with casualty inquiries and accident investigators because of concerns they could be implicated in a crime; because they do not trust the authorities; and because they are concerned that co-operation would have a prejudicial affect upon their employment.
The findings in the survey strongly suggest that the rights of seafarers, as enshrined in the Guidelines on Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the event of a Maritime Accident, adopted by the IMO and the International Labour Organization (ILO) are often be subject to violation: itself causing widespread concern among seafarers.
As many as 85.04% of seafarers surveyed, said that they are concerned about facing criminal charges. The main reasons were that seafarers feel they are scapegoated. Also seafarers feel there are numerous regulations which make them more vulnerable to being criminalised.
To improve the situation, seafarers want more information on the risks they are exposed to in relation to criminal charges as well as their rights if they are defendants, complainants or witnesses. They also want good and free legal representation when facing criminal charges; a fair process and fair treatment when facing criminal charges; a greater network of support from all the various stakeholders in the maritime industry if they do face criminal charges; and more uniform laws and procedures given the wide range of different crimes to which they are exposed.
“The message from seafarers is loud and clear,” said Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of SRI: “Seafarers are saying that their rights are theoretical and illusory; they need them to be practical and effective.
“Since criminal laws are largely tailored to nationals, they are an uneasy fit for foreign and temporary transnational workers. It is clear that seafarers are more exposed to criminal proceedings than many other workers and therefore need special assistance,” she added.
“The seafarers’ suggestions for what is needed to improve their situation, or their perception of their situation, offer a challenge to the maritime industry and to prosecuting authorities generally, if seafaring is to remain a viable option for young people.
“The SRI survey has brought the seafarers’ concerns to the fore and it is hoped it will create momentum amongst stakeholders – seafarers’ organisations, employers, regulators and non-governmental bodies, in addition to seafarers themselves – to better address the unfair treatment of seafarers. It seems that much remains to be done to protect this body of essential workers from unfairness and injustice but the effort is essential not only for the protection of serving seafarers, but also to improve the image of the profession for new recruits to come,” Ms Fitzpatrick concluded.
The 100th session of the IMO Legal Committee was attended by 88 member government delegations; 2 associate member delegations; 1 specialised agency; 2 intergovernmental organizations; and 20 non-governmental organizations.
The Committee agreed that the issue of fair treatment of seafarers in the event of a maritime accident should remain on its agenda and be discussed again in 2014.
A full copy of the SRI Survey is available at http://www.seafarersrights.org/category/sri-criminal-survey.
A worrying indictment of the plight of seafarers has been delivered by a far-reaching survey of the experiences of seafarers facing criminal charges with seafarers complaining of unfair treatment, intimidation and a lack of legal representation and interpretation services.
The survey by international legal research centre Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI) of 3,480 seafarers in the 12 months to the end of February 2012 was conducted in eight languages, with responses returned from 18 countries and 68 different nationalities of seafarers.
Of the seafarers surveyed, 8% had faced criminal charges; 4% had been witnesses in criminal prosecutions, while 33% knew of colleagues who had faced criminal charges. Almost 24% of masters in the survey had faced criminal charges.
Questions in the survey specifically asked about the experiences of seafarers who had faced criminal charges. 44% of seafarers reported that they were bodily searched. 87% who faced charges relating to the discharge of their professional duties said that they did not have legal representation; 91% of seafarers who needed interpretation services said that they were not provided with such services; and 89% of seafarers who had faced criminal charges said that they did not have their rights explained to them.
Seafarers were also specifically asked about their perceptions. 80% who had faced criminal charges felt intimidated or threatened.
Concerning casualty inquiries and accident investigations, 46% of seafarers who answered the question said that they would be reluctant to cooperate fully and openly with such inquiries. Reasons expressed included: “The information that I would provide might be used against me”; “I would fear incriminating myself”; “Anything you say can be used as evidence against you”.
Overall, 81% of seafarers who faced criminal charges did not consider that they had received fair treatment.
To gain a broader view of criminal charges faced by seafarers, SRI also carried out a review of all incidents involving criminal charges against seafarers reported in Lloyd’s List, TradeWinds and Fairplay, for the 12 year period from 2000 – 2011. There were 415 incidents reported in this period, involving 1,580 seafarers. Significantly over the period under review, the numbers of maritime criminal incidents and the numbers of detained seafarers showed a tendency to increase.
“The voices of seafarers are expressing real fears and concerns over criminal charges and it must be in the interests of the whole maritime industry that these are addressed and seafarers adequately protected. The prospect of criminal charges is daunting for any human being, whether in your own country, or even more so in a foreign country, and so for seafarers entering foreign ports on a daily basis, the risks are high and the consequences can be dire if fair and due process is not followed,” said Deirdre Fitzpatrick, SRI Executive Director.
She added: “We hope that the results of this survey will provide momentum for increased efforts to ensure fair treatment of seafarers, whether innocent or guilty of a criminal charge, and that from this survey, the faces and the voices of the seafarers will be seen clearly and heard loudly”.
The full report of the survey will shortly be available on SRI’s website.
IMO ‘DAY OF THE SEAFARER’ – TIME TO ACT
The International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) ‘Day of the Seafarer’ – on 25 June 2011 – is the opportunity for renewed efforts to safeguard the human rights of seafarers throughout the world and ensure that they are offered proper legal protection and support. That is the message from Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI), the organisation dedicated to raising awareness of the rights of seafarers and improving their legal protection under national and international laws.
“On this important date, players in the maritime world have to ask themselves the question: how much do they care about the workers who transport over 90% of the goods we all rely on, when crews are risking their lives in pirate-infested waters, vessel abandonment is still happening and there is little or no progress towards a safety net for seafarers facing criminal charges,” says Ms Fitzpatrick. “Now is the time to provide the resources to highlight seafarers’ problems and to challenge the role and effectiveness of the law in protecting seafarers’ rights.”
The ‘Day of the Seafarer’ sees the launch of SRI’s web resource for seafarers and stakeholders. Via the website, SRI will deliver its key objectives of promoting research, education and training in the legal rights and remedies applicable to seafarers. The site is designed to offer practical support and information for seafarers while providing the main delivery mechanism for SRI’s research programmes, articles, news and critical analysis from experts in both the shipping industry and the legal world.
Since its successful launch in September last year, an impressive line-up of influential experts from the shipping industry and the legal world has been recruited to SRI’s Advisory Board.
Three important research projects are under way with results anticipated later in the year. However, preliminary feedback makes compelling reading, providing a clear indication of the concerns of seafarers and the need for information, support and solutions to the problems seafarers face. Worries over unpaid wages, contract disputes, personal injuries, sickness, working hours, shore leave, abandonment, criminal charges and piracy are the grim reality for many seafarers.
“A staggering 96% of seafarers in one sample wanted more information on their legal rights,” explains Ms Fitzpatrick. “Seafarers are highly vulnerable to ill treatment, exploitation, abuse and injustice. Providing them the information they need in an easily accessible way is a key priority for SRI and we are delighted that our new web resource will contribute to that objective.”
Notes To Editors:
Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI) will:
• Promote research, education and training in the legal rights and remedies applicable to seafarers for the purpose of improving the effective protection of seafarers and the safeguarding of their interests;
• Increase interest among lawyers in seafarers’ rights and help them develop expertise across the range of maritime, labour and human rights laws;
• Provide strategic legal support to contribute to political, industrial, campaigning and lobbying agendas towards the promotion, protection and enforcement of seafarers’ rights under a just system of laws;
• Raise awareness on issues of seafarers’ laws, rights and remedies among policy makers, lobbyists, academics, legal practitioners and stakeholders generally in the maritime industry and beyond;
• Establish seafarers’ rights as a standard subject for students of law;
• Identify current issues in the maritime industry concerning seafarers that can be developed further into outreach projects with practical outcomes for seafarers and others working to assist seafarers; and
• Produce publications, such as online toolkits, guidelines for lawyers, checklists for seafarers and a dedicated website.
• SRI generally will not carry out advocacy, campaigning or case work because many others are doing this work well. Instead, SRI will aim to strengthen and support that work.
For further information please contact:
Sean Moloney / Debra Massey Tel. +44(0) 1296 682 356
Website (launch: 00.01, 25 June 2011) Website: www.seafarersrights.org
Today heralds the launch of Seafarers’ Rights International, a unique and groundbreaking resource dedicated to advancing the legal protection of seafarers worldwide.
Seafarers’ Rights International will use high level research and analysis to raise awareness of the legal concerns of seafarers, and will work to improve the protection of seafarers in national and international laws. It has been funded by a start-up grant from the ITF Seafarers’ Trust charity and is an independent organisation.
David Cockroft, General Secretary of the ITF said: “The success of an independent body such as Seafarers’ Rights International is crucial to identifying and tackling the rights of seafarers and that is of interest to all industry stakeholders including the ITF”.
The new centre will be led by international lawyer Deirdre Fitzpatrick in the role of Executive Director. She will be supported by an advisory board comprising experts from the shipping industry and the legal world.
Launching Seafarers’ Rights International, Deirdre Fitzpatrick said: “Seafarers work in often hazardous conditions. As mobile workers they are highly vulnerable to ill treatment, exploitation, abuse and injustice. They operate within and across different national jurisdictions and are subject to different international and national laws. In some cases, there may be doubt as to what if any law is applicable or enforceable.
“Seafarers’ Rights International will be dedicated to advancing seafarers’ rights and interests worldwide. Currently there is no established forum for research and dissemination of ideas and information regarding employment law in the area of international maritime transport. Seafarers’ Rights International will work to fill this gap. It will be an international resource for seafarers and for all stakeholders with a genuine concern for the protection of seafarers.”
The new Centre will work in three main areas:
Research. It will conduct independent research on topics of strategic importance; monitor major legal developments that affect seafarers’ law, rights and remedies; and develop, coordinate and participate in cross-border networks of researchers, research bodies and universities.
Education. It will promote education activities, programmes and exchanges so as to widen knowledge of seafarers’ laws, and disseminate the results of research in order to stimulate debate and promote changes in laws as appropriate.
Training. It will develop and deliver legal training and consultancy programmes that reflect the needs of stakeholders in the shipping industry working with seafarers and for the protection and promotion of their rights.
Notes to Editors:
Seafarers’ Rights International will:
• promote research, education and training in the legal rights and remedies applicable to seafarers for the purpose of improving the effective protection of seafarers and the safeguarding of their interests
• aim to be a centre of excellence and to increase interest among lawyers in seafarers’ rights and help them develop expertise across the range of maritime, labour and human rights laws
• provide strategic legal support to contribute to political, industrial, campaigning and lobbying agendas towards the promotion, protection and enforcement of seafarers’ rights under a just system of laws
• raise awareness on issues of seafarers’ laws, rights and remedies among policy makers, lobbyists, academics, legal practitioners and stakeholders generally in the maritime industry and beyond
• aim to establish seafarers’ rights as a curriculum subject for students of law
• identify current issues in the maritime industry concerning seafarers that can be developed further into research projects with practical outcomes for seafarers and others working to assist seafarers
• produce publications such as online toolkits, guidelines for lawyers, checklists for seafarers and a dedicated website.
You are cordially invited to the launch of Seafarers’ Rights International.
The launch will take place at 10.30am
on Thursday, 23 September 2010 (World Maritime Day)
at the International Maritime Organisation
4, Albert Embankment, London SE1 7SR
Seafarers’ Rights International is a unique and independent centre dedicated to advancing seafarers’ rights worldwide.
Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI) will use high level research and analysis to raise awareness of the rights of seafarers. It will promote, disseminate and study the role of national and international law as it affects those working at sea, with the aim of improving their human rights.
Seafarers are highly vulnerable to ill treatment, exploitation, abuse and injustice because they operate across national boundaries. The new centre will also provide education and training to ensure that seafarers are properly protected and supported.
IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos will officially welcome the new centre before David Cockroft, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF);
and Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of Seafarers’ Rights International will explain what role it will play in the maritime industry.
Following the launch of Seafarers’ Rights International, the IMO Secretary-General will be presented with an international anti-piracy petition containing more than 500,000 signatures. The petition has been gathered by a wide range of maritime organisations under the heading “Enough is Enough”. The petition calls on Governments to do everything possible to protect the thousands of seafarers and the hundreds of ships at risk of attack by pirates. For more information see www.itfseafarers.org/petition
** Please note that the IMO requires each guest to provide photographic identification as part of its security checks. Please arrive in plenty of time to allow for security checks. Refreshments will be served from 10am.