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Shipping industry leaders launch project for delivering on seafarers’ rights

Posted on: 5 November 2020

The Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) and the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB), along with SSI members, have announced the launch of a new project focusing on seafarers’ labour and human rights.

Delivering on seafarers’ rights will be a joint project to develop a human rights code of conduct for charterers, and a roadmap for tackling systemic challenges which create human rights risks for seafarers – a widely-recognised gap in catalysing industry-wide policy and practice.

Co-led by SSI and IHRB, the project brings together SSI members: The China Navigation Company; Forum for the Future; Louis Dreyfus Company; Oldendorff Carriers; RightShip; South32; and Standard Chartered Bank.

The challenge of protecting and respecting seafarers rights was thrust into the spotlight with the emergence of 300,000+ seafarers stranded at sea due to crew-change restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alongside this increased public awareness of the challenges seafarers worldwide face, there is a growing demand from consumers, investors, business partners, governments, and civil society for transparent and sustainable supply chains that address human rights along with environmental concerns.

Charterers are also increasingly under scrutiny with regard to the sustainability of their supply chains, not only in terms of their commodities but also the vessels that transport their cargo. However, there is currently a lack of guidance on how labour and human rights risks should be identified and mitigated. Plugging this gap is key to strengthening both chartering-related decision-making and due diligence processes.

This project will see charterers play an active role in raising the industry’s bar through the development of an industry code of conduct for actors joined together across the shipping value chain. Based on international labour and human rights standards and principles, this work will bring charterers, shipowners, and operators together for collective action, increasing transparency and driving positive change.

The work will further explore ways in which seafarers’ rights can be addressed by demanding transparency on labour and human rights risks, for example – through contractual terms and chartering provisions.

David Peel General Manager at RightShip said: “It’s unfortunate that it took a global pandemic for seafarer welfare to come into sharp focus. Some seafarers have been on a ship for 18 months. This is not sustainable, it leads to long-term fatigue, which impacts decision-making and focus. That is why we have seen numerous high-profile incidents including fires, groundings, and capsising of ships, and notably, the recent demise of the Gulf Livestock off Japan, which sailed into a typhoon. If we expect our seafarers to make safe choices, we need to do the right thing and protect their health and wellbeing. RightShip is committed driving lasting change and I am pleased that we have been able to work with SSI to make significant strides forward.”


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