Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Director Generals, Ambassadors and other government representatives as well as non-governmental organisations and professional individuals from over 50 States around the world, near and far, crowded into the headquarters of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on Friday to honour seafarers in the run up to the annual Day of the Seafarer (on 25th June) and to mark their commitment to the fair treatment of seafarers.
Organised by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI), this was the first international workshop to promote the Guidelines on fair treatment of seafarers in the event of a maritime accident and to discuss guidance on the implementation of those Guidelines.
The international workshop was opened by Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of Seafarers’ Rights International and opening addresses were delivered by Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the ITF, Kitack Lim, Secretary General of the IMO, Corinne Vargha, Director of Labour Standards of the ILO and Jacqueline Smith, Maritime Coordinator of the ITF.
The opening was following by over 30 powerful statements endorsing the fair treatment of seafarers, beginning with statements from the Minister of Justice from the Philippines and the Minister of Ports and Shipping from Sri Lanka. In thanking the ITF for organising the international workshop, some countries offered to host similar workshops in their regions with the assistance of the ITF.
Masters and seafarers and welfare agencies were also present to evidence their deep concern about criminalisation of seafarers and to explain the consequences when seafarers are not treated fairly.
In the next session, a distinguished panel of three judges, an emeritus professor of maritime law, a casualty investigator, a prosecutor and an IMO member state lead auditor discussed guidance on implementing the Guidelines on the fair treatment of seafarers into national laws, followed by questions and support from the floor.
Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the ITF said: “This international workshop is yet another important step in the work that ITF is doing to ensure the fair treatment of seafarers. A survey was carried out in 2012 that showed that 81% of seafarers did not think they had been treated fairly in investigations. That is a situation that I am determined to change for the better. The extremely positive results of this international workshop and overwhelming political support from the leading labour supply countries will be very carefully considered by the ITF. I will ensure that the momentum from this workshop is carried forward by even more initiatives.”
Jacqueline Smith, Maritime Coordinator of the ITF emphasised her commitment to provide an immediate response and practical assistance to seafarers on the ground when they are facing an investigation. She set out her detailed and far reaching vision to bring together all those who can mutually cooperate to ensure the fair treatment of seafarers at a time when they are most vulnerable.
She said: “The ITF wants to encourage cooperation and open dialogue as much as possible. There are no acceptable arguments against the fair treatment of seafarers and we consider it is the moral and legal obligation of all members of the industry to support our work to ensure the fair treatment of seafarers. Seafarers deserve nothing less.”