campaign on fair treatment of seafarers
Written by Anunda Nyarang’o
March 05, 2008: A major international campaign is under way to
promote international guidelines on fair treatment of seafarers in
the event of a maritime accident.
The United Nations maritime arm, the International Maritime
Organisation (IMO) Secretary-General, Mr Efthimios Mitropoulos,
has endorsed a joint campaign by the International Shipping
Federation (ISF), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and
the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) to promote
the guidelines as set out by IMO and the International Labour
The campaign encourages members of ISF/ICS and ITF to approach
governments to promote the guidelines and monitor how effectively
they are being implemented. Kenya has about 5,000 seafarers.
Mr Mitropoulos said that the campaign, which includes the
distribution of posters worldwide to inform seafarers of the
guidelines, was fully in line with the request of IMO’s Legal
Committee that the guidelines should be widely disseminated and
their application encouraged.
“By the actions you are taking, seafarers serving throughout the
shipping industry will not only have a clearer understanding of
the fundamental elements of fair treatment in the unfortunate
event they are caught up in a maritime accident, but they will
also feel encouraged by the knowledge that they have the
international community at their side, which, should the situation
arise, is prepared and willing to pay attention to their plight,”
Mr Mitropoulos said in a letter to Mr Tony Mason,
Secretary-General, ICS/ISF, and Mr David Cockroft, General
“I have no doubt that, by acting as you suggest, you will render a
good service to shipping by, among other things, establishing
faith in young people, who are thinking of a career at sea, that
seafarers are not alone and unprotected when something goes wrong
while at sea,” Mr Mitropoulos added.
The guidelines on fair treatment of seafarers in the event of a
maritime accident were adopted by IMO’s Legal Committee, at its
91st session in April 2006.
Developed by a Joint IMO/ILO Ad Hoc Expert Working Group on the
Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the Event of a Maritime Accident,
they were also adopted by the ILO Governing Body, in June 2006.
The guidelines request that all necessary measures should be taken
to ensure the fair treatment of seafarers and recommend that they
be observed in all instances where seafarers may be detained by
public authorities in the event of a maritime accident.
Seafarers are recognized as a special category of worker, the
Guidelines state. Given the global nature of the shipping industry
and the different jurisdictions with which they may be brought
into contact, they need special protection, especially in relation
to contact with public authorities.
The objective of the guidelines is to ensure that seafarers are
treated fairly following a maritime accident and during any
investigation and detention by public authorities and that any
detention is for no longer than necessary.
The guidelines give advice on steps to be taken by all those who
may be involved following an incident: the port or coastal State,
flag State, the seafarer’s State, the ship-owner and seafarers
The emphasis is on co-operation and communication between those
involved and in ensuring that no discriminatory or retaliatory
measures are taken against seafarers because of their
participation in investigations.