India Drives Human Rights at Sea Agenda Forward

NHRC meeting in India

Published Jul 15, 2019 5:18 AM by The Maritime Executive

The Indian Government and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) are driving forward with the newly created “human rights at sea” agenda in quick time following the first national seminar on the topic held in Mumbai on February 28, 2019, and a NHRC meeting in New Dehli on July 8 co-organized with the Forum for Integrated National Security (FINS) think-tank.

As first reported by The Times of India and copied to the U.K.-based charity Human Rights at Sea prior to publishing, NHRC Delhi members led by Dr. Dyneshwar M Mulay, Secretary General Sh Jaideep Govind, officials from Ministry of Shipping and Ministry of External Affairs, delegates from FINS and civil society representatives held discussions over the topic of “Human Rights at Sea of Indian Seafarers.”

Mulay remarked that human rights abuses of seafarers are on the rise, and it’s a serious matter of concern for both NHRC and the Indian Government.

The evidence of abuses at sea are numerous, with: 

•     the case of 23 detained Indian seafarers of the MT SG Pegasus by the Indonesian Navy for over five months, 
•     the recent closure of eight maritime training institutes by the Director General Shipping for issues such as fraudulently admitting students to unapproved courses and issuing course certificates without attendance, 
•     exposure of the case of the Panamanian flagged MV Nautical Global XVI anchored 19 nautical miles off Deendayal Portin western India for two-and-a-half years after arrest following a Gujarat High Court order in may 2017, and
•     the arrest and detention of the Panamanian flagged vessel Sea Horizon by Ghanaian naval authorities due to a contractual dispute between Nigerian companies including an assessed five Indian seafarers.

Human Rights at Sea has been provided with a summary of examples of human rights cases, including abuses towards Indian seafarers current as of July 12, including:

•     Estimated data shows that there are about 200 Indian seafarers in foreign jails.
•     65 Indian seafarers stranded for 151 days on ships in Indonesia.
•     More than 82 Indian seafarers onboard three Mercator vessels stranded for the last month with wages unpaid for last three months including the dredger Omkara Prem off Porbandar and the dredger Tridevi Prem off Mangalore.
•     More than 40 Indian seafarers are stranded in Dubai.
•     More than 15 Indian seafarers stranded in Iran with two stranded for more than 20 months.
•     Unreported cases of illegal detention and imprisonment of Indian seafarers in foreign waters continue to be reported.
•     On July 5, 2019 , Times Of India Mumbai stated that 25 ships off Mumbai coast posed significant danger with one, the MT Tag Navya, abandoned and unmanned within port limits.

The NHRC Secretary General concluded the July 8 meeting with Mulay by submitting that the NHRC should continue to discuss the issue through an informal working group headed by the Registrar of the NHRC.

Having been party to and reviewed the submission paperwork, Human Rights at Sea is pleased to hear that FINS will now proceed with a project on Human Rights at Sea to review the issue, its scope, and deliver a report covering issues such as slavery, trafficking, illegal employment, recruitment processes and currently available and future remedies.

Human Rights at Sea Founder, David Hammond, commented that: “As a founding member of the IMO, Indian authorities have rapidly taken on the emerging human rights at sea topic and are now pro-actively developing the subject-matter at State-level to start to comprehensively address human rights abuses within the Indian maritime sector. As highlighted by the charity in February in Mumbai, this State-level leadership and associated policy development now needs to be further replicated around the world to be truly effective.”