Call to press criminal charges over ship deficiencies

When does the level of deficiencies on ships cross the threshold from being a civil wrong to a criminal offence? This question is one that the shipping industry, port state authorities and law enforcement agencies must seriously consider when it comes to the welfare of seafarers, reckons Reverend Roger Stone from seafarers’ charity Apostleship of the Sea (AoS).

Stone, the AoS port chaplain for the south coast ports in England, maintained in a release yesterday he had seen deficiencies on board ships that clearly contravene health and safety regulations as well as the human and statutory rights of the crew.

Examples include galleys without food or drinking water, food unfit for human consumption, filthy shower and toilet areas, galleys with insect infestation, crew being forced to work without sufficient rest hours.

While port state authorities have the power to detain a ship for deficiencies, Stone has urged for more serious penalties to be handed out.

“Surely there must be a point when what is a civil offence becomes a criminal one, especially in cases where abuse and modern slavery is suspected,” said Stone.

He added, “It is therefore so important if someone sees something wrong, that they don’t keep it to themselves but share information with the authorities so that appropriate action can be taken without delay; so any deficiencies can be remedied and if there is anybody in trouble they can be helped immediately and not just put on a record or a database for next time.”

AoS works closely with Kevin Hyland, the UK government’s anti-slavery commissioner, and his office, to help seafarers suspected of being subjected to modern slavery.

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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