IMO ‘Invites’ Fair Treatment

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Apr 132011

As we know, the difference between the captain of an aircraft and the captain of a ship is that when something goes wrong the aircraft captain gets sympathy while the ship’s captain gets prison. New IMO agreements on fair treatment still face an uphill climb but there are signs of progress.

A draft assembly resolution aimed at promoting compliance with the 2006 IMO/ILO Guidelines on fair treatment of seafarers in the event of a maritime accident was agreed by the Legal Committee when it met for its 98th session.

The draft resolution invites member states to consider amending their national legislation to give full and complete effect to the Guidelines on Fair Treatment of Seafarers and invites governments to respect the principles in the guidelines when considering fair treatment of seafarers in other circumstances where seafarers are detained. Continue reading »

Unfair Treatment of Seafarers – The Outlook

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Mar 142010

Cynics might suggest, with cause, that unfair treatment of seafarers is becoming mandatory in an increasingly anti-seafarer global atmosphere. Indeed,the United States has reserved to itself the right to treat seafarers unfairly and deprive them rights provided under the incoming code for maritime casualty investigation. Recent court actions in Hong Kong and South Africa increase the urgency of the debate.

In recent weeks BIMCO has published three key articles on these an other issues, which MAC is publishing with BIMBCO’s permission, edited only for style. They are a valuable summary of the issues faced by seafarers in trouble:


In a this three article series, republished with permission, BIMCO focuses on unfair treatment of seafarers, including the general trends observed in recent cases, as well as the implications for the seafarers involved. The series, published to mark the International Maritime Organization’s Year of the Seafarer, concludes with an overview of the international rules and guidelines dealing with fair treatment of seafarers

Recent cases of unfair treatment of seafarers appear to demonstrate a drift towards a stricter liability regime. Also, the cases observed have serious implications for the seafarers involved, notably in terms of long periods of detention and a number of “side-effects” of a more practical nature, as well as for the shipping sector as a whole. The shipping industry, as well as the international community, is aware of the potential implications and a number of measures have been taken to counter these problems.

Continue reading »

Fair Treatment Update

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Feb 052010


IMO Information Sheet No. 20 on information resources on the fair treatment of seafarers has been updated. It includes a wide range of materials covering  abandonment, personal injury to or death of
seafarers; criminalisation of seafarers in the event of maritime accidents including pollution incidents and shore leave for seafarers from a variety of sources and with internet links to available material.

Download a copy here

Give Me Your Huddled Seafarers, Yearning To Be Free…

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Oct 262008

Crew morale is a safety issue so efforts being made by the US National Maritime Security Committee, NMSAC, are to be welcomed. Present restrictions which effectively prevent non-US seafarers from having shore leave in US ports are by any measure, except xenophobic paranoia, unreasonably restrictive and onerous to those who have spend weeks or months huddled in the confines of a ship, people upon whom the United States depends for its existence.

Currently, the only sure way to get shore access in the US is to hit a bridge.

NMSAC’s blog gives rundown on what it regards as “One of the more sensitive issues that NMSAC has been working on”. Says the blogger “As a former Merchant Officer, I can tell you that getting off the boat for a few hours is a huge deal to most sailors. Even if it’s to go to Wal Mart to get a new tooth brush, getting a change of scenery does much for crew morale.”

Currentlky, Some facility owners and operators have established security measures that essentially bar access to any persons not vetted by them, including seafarers seeking access to shore leave. Others have established a system of escort and transportation through the facility with the cost of this service being billed directly to the individual seafarer. So, freedom isn’t free in a US port.

An NMSAC working group is looking at the issues. On physical access to the port and surrounding areas, the committee says: “Physical access issues arise through inconsistent interpretation of regulations and weak support from the Coast Guard for the intent of the human element provisions of the ISPS Code – specifically, paragraphs 10 and 11 of the Preamble and Part A, Section 16.3.15. The Working Group found that physical access issues must be resolved through the Coast Guard and terminal operators.”

It has also looked at documentation issues: “Seafarers’ documentation issues arise through the immigration policies of the federal government. For example, the arrivals and departures of air crews in the United States are governed by the same laws that apply to seafarers. However, air crew members may receive a waiver of the visa requirements for short stays. This is generally not done for seafarers. Seafarers’ documentation issues must be resolved through action by Customs and Border Protection and the Department of State.”

In other words, inconsistent application of the ISPS code, turning a blind-eye to those provisions applying to the treatment of seafarers, inequitable treatment of seafarers versus aircrew even though the same rules apply, conspire to make life even harder and more unfair for seafarers.

The committee recommends that the CG require each facility provide unencumbered access for seafarers by requiring that every port facility security plan facilitate shore leave, crew changes, and access for visitors. Any costs for facilitating such access are a matter for the port facility.”

It also wants to “look at legal authority to force facilities to provide access to shore leave.”

MAC suspects that the chances of the Department of Homeland Security giving the nod to fair treatment of seafarers are minimal. Possibly there should be recommendation to establish a main US port of entry at Guatanamo Bay.