Code of Conduct Developed to Increase Focus on Crew Welfare Issues

code of conduct to improve and assess crew welfare
(IMO file photo)

Published Oct 12, 2021 6:36 PM by The Maritime Executive

With the increasing focus on the welfare and mental health issuers for the world’s two million seafarers along with the increasingly difficult work environments, a new initiative is launching to provide a uniform code of conduct and assessment tool for ship owners, operators, and charters. Design as a tool for the industry to demonstrate its commitment to seafarers’ welfare and provide transparency, the Code of Conduct builds on the ILO Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) to provide a more comprehensive standard for the industry and its employees.
“A sustainable shipping industry needs to ensure the protection of its workforce. This presents a unique opportunity for the industry to work together and take concrete action for the rights of nearly 2 million seafarers worldwide, now and in the future,” said Kristina Kunigenas, Human Rights Lead at the Sustainable Shipping Initiative.

The project has been led by the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) and the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB), in collaboration with the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights and RightShip. Key SSI members played an active role in its development, with expert input from Forum for the Future, Louis Dreyfus Company, Oldendorff Carriers, South32, Standard Chartered Bank, Swire Shipping, and Wilhelmsen Ship Management.

Based on international labor and human rights standards and principles, the Code of Conduct and self-assessment were created over eight months of consultation and collaboration with shipowners, operators, charterers, cargo owners, seafarers’ associations, civil society, and others. According to the organizers, the initiative aims to support a safe, healthy, and secure onboard work environment. The 52 clauses in the Code provide a tool for shipowners, operators, charterers, and cargo owners to understand the extent to which current operations meet crew welfare responsibilities.

“The global pandemic brought seafarers' rights firmly into focus, with many crews forced to endure exceptionally difficult conditions to keep global supply chains and trade freely flowing,” notes Frances House, Deputy Chief Executive at IHRB. “We expect a great deal from them and it’s only right that they expect an adequate standard of care, conditions, and quality from us. This is a proud, vital industry that depends on people to keep sailing. This Code of Conduct and self-assessment will help build a platform to respect worker dignity while advancing industry progress. We look forward to widespread engagement from industry stakeholders everywhere.”

To enable immediate action across the industry, RightShip has launched an online self-assessment tool developed in collaboration with SSI and IHRB. This freely available questionnaire provides practical guidance on utilizing the Code of Conduct, helping shipowners and operators understand their responsibilities while assessing current operations and ways of working, and consequently showing areas for improvement.

The self-assessment is not ratings-based and respondents will not be compared against other operators. Once submitted a self-assessment on the Crew Welfare Tool, the project encourages the ship owners and operators to work with their teams to explore the areas of improvement and to use the results as a guide to strengthening crew welfare where gaps are found. 

The Code of Conduct can be downloaded for free from SSI.