Fair Treatment of Seafarers and the Duty to Rescue Stranded Seafarers

Fair Treatment of Seafarers and the Duty to Rescue Stranded Seafarers

by | 11 Nov 2014

Safety of seafarers and their fair treatment has been a soaring issue in the maritime industry. The risk that unfair treatment of seafarers poses is that the whole shipping industry gets bad publicity. Cases of slavery and dangers at sea hinder the attracting of good seafarers to the industry and break human rights.
Fair treatment of seafarers ranges from incidents at sea that receive a lot of media coverage to daily issues of mistreat towards ship crews. Many times the later leads to the first.
One of the most important issues, however, remains the fair treatment of seafarers in the case of an incident.
There are hundreds of vessels currently cruising the international waters. It is not uncommon for a ship to encounter another vessel requiring assistance.
In such events, what are seafarers supposed to do?
The common fair seafarers treatment procedure requires vessels to stop and assist those stranded at sea,especially in politically hot regions where people might be in danger.
Unfortunately, the case is not always as we would like itto be. Many times, vessels needing assistance are left without hope when ships bypass them in international waters. The question that we are asking ourselves today is – are the crews and owners of ships that fail to provide assistance to be held liable?
Seafarers might spend days, weeks, and even months without help because of the unclear responsibility of passing vessels. Changing international laws and the thread that unidentified seafarers can pose on a ship also make the salvage of unknown vessels harder.
Abandonment at sea is a very serious unfair treatment to seafarers and their families, and has great impact on their personal and professional lives. Very often the ship’s crew fails to complain because they are afraid for their pay and safety and remain at sea without resolution while the ship owners tries to solve financial and administrative issues. The IMO and non-profit organizations are currently setting rescue operations and guidelines for better treatment of seafarers.

IMO guidelines

After several incidents of unfair treatment of seafarers in the last 10 years the IMO came up with guidelines that create a framework for improved conditions and address the special case of the seafarer:
– the seafarer is a special kind of professional and his fair treatment after a maritime accident is
guaranteed- the guidelines are recommendations and they are not legally binding
– seafarers are not to be held for longer than necessary prior to starting investigations
– arrange issues like arrests, interrogations and legal rights of seafarers
– each and every state needs to make sure a fair legal procedure to identify what has happened
However, many states fail to apply those guidelines and in some cases the unfair treatment of seafarers is still currently present. Failing to keep up with simple guidelines makes us wonder what happens when cases become complicated, like in occasions of slavery and piracy?

In a traditionally hard industry, as the shipping one,piracy and slavery are still a big issue. Ships stranded at sea and their crews are easy targets for international terrorist and crime organizations.
But what happens when

Unfair Treatment Of Seafarers On Ships


Even with strong guidelines and legal binding agreements,occasions where fisherman turn into “ship slaves”, ares till on the evening news.

One example that the whole media community is discussing is Thailand. The country has one of the biggest seafoodexport industries but still practices trafficked andforced labor.
Many current publications focus on revealing the horrible conditions on Thai ships via interviews with escaped crew members.

The thriving industry of Thai seafood that serves dinnerat tables internationally has a dark side. The ugly truth is that refugees and people looking for work in Thailand often get sold to ship-owners and are forced to work in slavery.

The light that media has put on cases as this gives hope for the fair treatment of farers. Wide media coverage can and will force ship owners and shipping companies to watch closely who they are dealing with when doing business.
Thailand is only part of the problem but revealing what is going on there might help others in the fight against fisherman slavery. While there is still a long way to go until the fair treatment of seafarers becomes the norm,raising awareness is the first step to fighting the problem.
In conclusion, we need to say that the fair treatment of farers and the issue with stranded vessels at sea is one that needs the attention of different stakeholders. The IMO guidelines are not enough if they are not enforced by state legal systems. Taking responsibility is everyone’s business – ship owners, crew, shippers, international organizations, and of course, the public and businesses that can refuse to work with companies who treat farers unfairly.

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