Asian crewing nations make official commitment to the fair treatment of seafarers

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 International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Labor Organization (ILO) agreed Guidelines on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers.

The meeting, held in Manila yesterday, was organised by Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI), 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.

“Given the global nature of the shipping industry and the different jurisdictions that seafarers may be brought into contact with, they need special protection, especially in relation to contacts with public authorities in the event of a maritime accident,” a release fro SRI stated yesterday.

“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,” commented Deirdre Fitzpatrick, executive director of SRI.

The guidelines, which are voluntary, do not seek to interfere with any state’s domestic, criminal, or civil law. Instead, they are meant to 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.

Among those attending yesterday’s event was the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) general secretary Stephen Cotton, who commented: “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.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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