Guidelines for Fair Treatment of Seafarers Mandated
A regional meeting of Asia’s leading seafaring nations has highlighted the plight many seafarers face in the event of a maritime accident and has pledged to lead the drive towards proper and effective implementation of the IMO and ILO agreed Guidelines on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers.
Given the global nature of the shipping industry and the different jurisdictions that seafarers may be brought into contact with, it was felt that they need special protection, especially in relation to contacts with public authorities in the event of a maritime accident. The Guidelines, which are voluntary, do not seek to interfere with any State's domestic, criminal or civil law. Instead, they balance the rights and obligations of stakeholders to whom the Guidelines are addressed, namely port and coastal states, flag states, the seafarers’ states, shipowners and seafarers.
The meeting, held in Manila on November 13, was organized by Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI), a body researching maritime and seafarers’ law, and DOLE, the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment.
Issuing the first ever Manila Statement on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers, senior government representatives from more than 10 countries in the region said the time was right for action to be taken to protect their seafarers. The move follows a conference on the Guidelines held by SRI at the IMO Headquarters in London in June last year. Representatives from more than 50 countries called for regional meetings to be convened to discuss the Guidelines and how they aligned with national legal frameworks.
The Manila meeting received international support from the Secretary-General of the IMO, the Director of Standards at the ILO, as well as Ambassadors and Embassy staff from more than 30 countries from outside the region.
Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of SRI, said announcement of the Manila Statement on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers is a crucial step in raising awareness. “A number of governments have already implemented the Guidelines but many others need to consider them and look at how they can be implemented within their own legislation, and how capacity can be built among all stakeholders and role players to ensure more effective implementation and enforcement of the fundamental rights contained in the Guidelines.”
Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), welcomed the Manila Statement saying it charts the way forward. Speaking at the meeting, Cotton said: “Now the hard work begins, we must create an implementation plan to roll out the statement to ensure that every seafarer feels the benefits of what has been agreed here today; that they receive fair treatment.”
Meeting participants hope that other regions will follow the example set in Manila.