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New measures to protect seafarers

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A new tool has been put in place to strengthen the rights of workers on board transport vessels. These guidelines published by several international organizations aim to help companies respect human and labor rights at sea.

Following the health crisis, maritime workers have seen their rights questioned. In particular concerning working and sanitary conditions on board transport cargo ships. For guarantee the rights of workers at sea, a set of new measures has been proposed by the United Nations Global Compact, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Published in early 2021 due to the health context, these guidelines relate to the rights of seafarers, especially those working on supply freighters. Indeed, the maritime transporttransports more than 80% of world trade. The health crisis imposes difficult working conditions for seafarers. Some found themselves stranded for several months on board their ship.

Guarantee respect for maritime labor law

This collection of guidelines has been sent to cargo owners, charterers and logistics service companies, who need to protect their employees during the health crisis. Because some shipping companies have introduced clauses. These prohibit the changing of crew during the COVID-19 crisis, further straining the maritime sector.

The new tool therefore includes a set of seafarer labor law measures. In particular, employers must:

  • « ask for written confirmation thatno seafarer is on board for a continuous period exceeding the limit of 11 months provided for by Maritime Labor Convention 2006 ";
  • « ensure, with business partners, that seafarers are not obliged to work beyond the end of their contracts without their voluntary consent, since it could be considered forced labor ";
  • or " make sure that vessel operators avoid extending crew contracts as much as possible ».

Ensuring the health safety of seafarers

In addition to labor law measures, there are also directives aimed at creating decent conditions during the crisis in order to ensure the protection of seafarers. For this, the tool includes a health protocol for shipping companies, but also to governments and national authorities. These health measures concern working conditions at sea, as well as the arrival and departure procedures of employees on board ships. In particular, it is recommended to:

  • provide personal protective equipment (PPE) suitable for seafarers;
  • lift travel restrictions for seafarers so that they can reach their places of work and then be repatriated without difficulty;
  • favor air travel in order to follow a health protocol that the authorities consider stricter.

Many measures have therefore been put in place at the international level so that seafarers can be protected in terms of wages and health during the pandemic.

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