Eleven industry figures shared their concerns that Covid-19 variants could see crew numbers trapped on board ships beyond the end of their contracts soar to peak levels seen in September 2020 when around 400,000 crew were unable to be repatriated.
As a result the UN leaders and others have developed a Human Rights Due Diligence Tool that will see those operating within the supply chain, but particularly owners and charterers, will be able to make sure individual seafarers rights and the obligations of employers are both met.
A joint statement distributed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on behalf a number of UN leaders and industry bodies, including the International Chamber of Shipping, the IMO and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) said, “The new guidance aims to ensure that seafarers have their rights safeguarded in areas such as physical and mental health, access to family life and freedom of movement.”
There was also “strong concern” expressed by the UN bodies of reports that “companies engaged in international trade are avoiding chartering vessels where a crew change is due, with some demanding ‘no crew change’ clauses in charter party agreements, preventing needed crew changeovers and adding further pressure on the maritime industry.”
Kitack Lim, IMO secretary general, who said yesterday that half of stranded sailors had been repatriated, today added, “Seafarers are at the heart of the global supply chain. They are also at the mercy of Covid-19 restrictions on travel and transit. This has led to hundreds of thousands of seafarers being denied repatriation, crew changes, shore leave and ultimately being forced to stay working on ships long beyond their contracts.”
The human rights tool is an adjunct to the Neptune Declaration which saw 750 companies sign up to protecting seafarers’ rights and wellbeing last year. The human rights tool will provide those operating within supply chains with a “checklist” that will “identify, prevent, mitigate and address adverse human rights impacts for seafarers,” said the announcement.
“It is incumbent on everyone involved with shipping, across the entire supply and logistics chain, to ensure seafarers rights are protected. This tool is an important step forward, providing a practical approach for cargo owners, charterers and logistic providers to consider the human rights of seafarers and ensure they are put first and foremost as they work to deliver the goods that people need and want,” added Lim.
Human rights activists believe that seafarers were the one of the invisible victims of Covid-19, and that the pandemic, “shone a light on exploitative practices in the shipping industry.”
Peter McAllister, Ethical Trading Initiative Executive Director, said the organisation was pleased to see the seafarers checklist, which was rapidly developed in consultation with the International Transport Workers’ Federation and the International Chamber of Shipping
“We urge business to use this tool to help improve the working conditions for seafarers and underpin a more sustainable shipping industry,” added MaAllister.
The 11 industry figures in the joint statement are:
Sanda Ojiambo, Executive Director and CEO of the UN Global Compact
Guy Ryder, ILO Director General
Michele Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights
Guy Platten, International Chamber of Shipping Secretary General
Stephen Cotton, International Transport Workers’ Federation General Secretary
Managing Director of The Consumer Goods Forum, Wai-Chan Chan
Johannah Christensen, Managing Director, Head of Projects & Programmes, Global Maritime Forum
Margi Van Gogh, Head of Supply Chain & Transport Industries, World Economic Forum
Andrew Stephens, Executive Director, Sustainable Shipping Initiative
Peter McAllister, Ethical Trading Initiative Executive Director
Kitack Lim Secretary General of the IMO