Shipping Industry Leaders Launch Seafarers’ Rights Initiative

SSI and IHRB launch new program to address critical issue with the help of carriers

LONDON, 5 November 2020 – The Sustainable Shipping Initiative and the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB), along with SSI members 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.
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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.

"Too often the nature of this ‘out of sight, out of mind’ work is taken advantage of by unscrupulous organisations to be also ‘below or ignoring national and international legislative requirements and against basic accepted standards of human rights,” James Woodrow, Managing Director at The China Navigation Company Pte Ltd said.

“The China Navigation Company is keen to work with the other committed members and partners of the Sustainable Shipping Initiative to ensure that seafarers’ labour and human rights are fully respected and observed. We will work in this initiative with proactive charterers to play an active role in raising the bar and through transparency assist the due diligence to deliver on seafarers’ rights, potentially by way of an industry code of conduct and through contractual terms and chartering provisions.”

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.
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