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COVID-19 is not a license to go rogue

Due Diligence Tool introduced to deter operators from compromising seafarers’ rights

200,000 seafarers are stranded currently, compared to 400,000 since September 2020. This is a stark reduction after various bodies’ actively campaigning for seafarers’ rights. However, caution is still needed to ensure the number does not bounce back to the horrifying peak last recorded.

A new movement in place
The Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI), a maritime legal research organisation insisted vigilance is needed to ensure seafarers’ rights remain protected, as enforced by the United Nations (UN). Welcoming of the UN’s initiative, the SRI urged all cargo owners and charters to support the Human Rights Due Diligence Tool movement. It was developed for cargo owners and charterers due to concerns that the number of stranded seafarers may rebound to its original high due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The movement is a joint effort between the UN Global Compact (UNGC), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). It aims to ensure seafarers’ rights remain guarded especially in terms of physical and mental health, access to family life and freedom.

While it might be enticing for some operators to cut corners by leveraging the pandemic, it is still a moral obligation to be responsible for the team. Compromising the team’s wellbeing is the perfect recipe to destroy any trust initially developed, and even perfect working relationships onboard.

Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of SRI is an active supporter of this movement. She said, “There is always a minority who seek to exploit any situation and compete unfairly with the rest of the industry. It is these rogue operators who will not have the new toolkit top their reading list, and must be deterred from violating the standards.” She added while the industry hopes standards are followed, there must a form of enforcement in place imposed by the industry players governments.

The labour shortage can only be mitigated if operators make an effort to ensure any seafarer hired is well taken care of. Therefore, it might be fair to say there will not be a labour shortage, albeit terms and conditions apply – beginning with active cooperation from operators.


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