SRI marks anniversary with new research initiative to support the industry

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To mark World Maritime Day 2023, SRI, the international pan-industry body researching maritime and seafarers’ law, has announced the launch of a new research initiative endorsed by the IMO Legal Committee.

The research is designed to explore how effectively the IMO-ILO Guidelines on the fair treatment of seafarers in the event of a maritime accident are implemented globally. This announcement coincides with the anniversary of SRI, which was launched on World Maritime Day in September 2010 at the International Maritime Organization’s headquarters in London.

The research aims to assess how governments worldwide are incorporating these vital guidelines into national laws, addressing the vulnerability of seafarers facing legal complexities and challenges in attaining justice at local levels. Importantly, this new research will also explore how the Guidelines are being applied in respect of criminal investigations.

Deirdre Fitzpatrick (pictured), Executive Director of SRI, explains: “An investigation under the Casualty Investigation Code is mandatory following major incidents, and additional inquiries including criminal investigations are often triggered, leading already traumatised seafarers to find themselves behind bars and unwittingly facing what is often an opaque justice system in an unknown country.”

The new research programme is being carried out in conjunction with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the results will be presented to the IMO Legal Committee next year, supporting the work of the Joint IMO-ILO Working Group. This partnership seeks to address fair treatment concerns for seafarers detained on suspicion of maritime crimes, paving the way for the consideration of tangible proposals to protect their rights and well-being.

Jacqueline Smith, Maritime Co-ordinator of the ITF, is deeply concerned about seafarers facing criminal investigations: “Seafarers become extremely vulnerable in the face of local criminal laws, and they face serious difficulties in gaining justice at a local level. It appears all too often that only seafarers are presumed guilty in the event of casualties or crimes and are scapegoated. That is obviously wrong, and seafarers are deeply concerned. Our work must continue until seafarers everywhere have the guarantees of fair treatment that they deserve”.

Dave Heindel, Chair of the ITF Seafarers Section, wants the research to be consequential for the maritime industry. “At a time when the maritime industry needs urgently to recruit, retrain, upskill and reskill seafarers, fear of criminalisation remains a very serious problem. It could get even worse. Green fuels and automation could raise new potential criminal liabilities for seafarers. The research and work being conducted by the ITF and SRI will help to identify and address these issues”.

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