To mark International Seafarers Day which took place on Saturday, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Modern Slavery Partnership is asking port workers to look out for signs of modern slavery when dealing with ships docking in Hampshire ports and to report concerns to police.
The partnership is writing to cruise and shipping companies asking them to sign up to the Modern Slavery partnership, but also to other companies working within the port who may board ships, asking them all to look out for the signs of modern slavery on vessels.
Reverend Roger Stone, Apostleship of the Sea port chaplain for the south coast ports in England, and Modern Slavery Partnership member, says 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.
Some examples Rev Stone has come across during ship visits include, galleys without food or drinking water, food unfit for human consumption, filthy shower and toilet areas, galleys with insect infestation and crew being forced to work without sufficient rest hours or pay. Such conditions though rare in the UK are not insignificant.
He said that currently port state authorities do have the power to detain a ship for deficiencies, but questions if this is enough.
“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. 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,” said Rev Stone.
Modern Slavery Partnership Co-ordinator Jess Gealer said: “Slavery at Sea can go unnoticed due to restricted access to the ships and limited opportunity to check on the welfare of sea farers. We are therefore writing to all those who work with sea farers to ask them to join the partnership, look out for the signs of slavery and to report any concerns. It is vital that if someone sees something they think is wrong, that they share information with the authorities so that appropriate action can be taken without delay and if there is anybody in trouble they can be helped immediately.”
Insp Dave Humphries of Hampshire Police said: “The priority for the police in the first instance is to safeguard victims. However we will seek to disrupt criminal activity associated with modern slavery and prosecute those responsible where ever possible.”
“We know from what people, such as Roger, tell us that there are crew members on some commercial ships that come into our ports being exploited and this may amount to offences under the new Modern Slavery Act. Where this is the case we want to be able to do all we can to help those victims and then deal with offences. This may even involve us seizing vessels whilst investigations take place.”