Culpable at sea, innocent on land – Criminalisation cited as biggest fear for seafarers

A new survey by the maritime professionals’ union Nautilus International has found criminalisation remains a major worry for those working in the industry, with nearly 90% worried about the risk of prosecution.

The survey of over 500 seafarers, announced at the organisation’s UK branch symposium in Liverpool, found nearly three quarters of respondents (70%) suggested the threat has a direct impact on their desire to remain at sea and identified a resulting impact on recruitment and retention within the industry.

The announcement follows the launch of Nautilus International’s fair treatment campaign which provides practical support for seafarers. This includes a 24/7 helpline, a worldwide network of lawyers and the JASON advice and assistance scheme (Nautilus Federation’s Joint Assistance & Support Network), run in partnership with Nautilus Federation unions. The Union will also be launching a new mobile app, giving members instant access to advice following an incident.

One in 10 of those surveyed (15%) reported they have been directly involved in legal action, opening them up to persecution and requiring union support. Of these, a third of cases (30%) involved civil action and a fifth involved maritime administrative action or criminal action (20%).

The symposium in Liverpool brought together a special panel of industry experts to discuss the problem. This included, Seafarers’ Rights International head Deirdre Fitzpatrick, International Transport Workers’ Federation maritime coordinator Jacqueline Smith and Helen Kelly of Lloyd’s List and Natalie Beswetherick, Director of practice and development at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) who provided a view on what happens which patients are injured during physiotherapy sessions.

The announcements coincide with the start of a trial in France this week of the US P&O Cruise captain who allegedly breached pollution limits in Marseille earlier in March this year. If found guilty, the individual could face up to a year in prison and a €200,000 fine.

The union’s head of strategy, Debbie Cavaldoro, commented: “The criminalisation of seafarers not only has a damaging impact on individuals who can suffer as scapegoats, but also on the economy, as skilled workers will be put off from entering the industry that we rely so much upon.

“Sadly, the example in France this week highlights the injustice seafarers face following incidents at sea. As a result, our fair treatment campaign aims to present these issues to the industry and government alike, whilst providing practical support to ensure members’ rights are protected at sea as they would be on land”.

The full survey findings will be used to produce a report examining members’ views on the subject, as well as including case studies which unions in the Nautilus Federation have been involved in defending. It will also feature updated guidance for members on relevant international conventions and their rights to be treated fairly in the event of an incident.

Any members facing troubled with criminalisation are encouraged to speak with the Nautilus 24/7 helpline:  https://www.nautilusint.org/en/assistance/nautilus-247 and there’s still time to take part in the Nautilus criminalisation survey