Report: The State of Human Rights Implementation in Shipping

Image of a female seafarer with an anchor
Image courtesy Human Rights at Sea / ITF

Published Oct 21, 2022 10:40 PM by Human Rights at Sea

Human Rights at Sea has published a new independent review into implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights throughout the maritime sector.

The extensive report provides both an introduction to the UN Guiding Principles (UNGP) and highlights ongoing developments in the maritime sector under the three UNGP pillars.

It points to areas within maritime sectors where further work is needed to ensure that commercial engagement fully aligns with the Guiding Principles.

The UNGP have now been in place for over a decade. Still, the degree and quality of their implementation across global supply chains requires significantly more investment and development to demonstrate lasting impact. This is especially so throughout the maritime sector.

As stated by Phil Bloomer, Executive Director of the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, in the foreword:

“Framing the concerns at sea raised by civil society organisations involves switching the industry’s approach from a race to the bottom, to a race from the bottom. This requires transparent and accountable reporting and continuous communication, especially from leading companies who are attempting to move in the right direction in what should be otherwise seen as a race to the top.”

The UNGP are here to stay, and they are changing business practices, though still not quickly enough. It is even more so the case when we consider the fast-moving developments in mandatory human rights due diligence legislation being enacted in a growing number of countries.

Previous Human Rights at Sea reporting has highlighted that some related business activities are being implemented in the sector, including the introduction of tools, public reviews and evidence-gathering mechanisms. Unfortunately, many such activities are still conducted behind the corporate veil with limited disclosure and even more limited accountability.  

This is despite increasing consumer interest and civil society pressure for business actors to become more transparent, openly accountable and to actively show integrated use of the UNGP within their business models.

It is now up to all maritime sector stakeholders, including those related to merchant shipping, passenger transport, offshore oil and gas and fishing, to apply the available tools, learn from peers who are further ahead and come together at industry-level with all stakeholders to achieve widespread change.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.