Following the launch of a seafarers’ rights and welfare Code of Conduct and self-assessment earlier in October, the Sustainable Shipping Initiative and the Institute for Human Rights and Business convened a webinar to introduce the work and discuss its potential impact to the world’s nearly 2 million seafarers.

Read the summary and watch the recording below.

Jacqueline Smith, Maritime Coordinator at the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) started the event by reflecting on the crew change crisis and the way it has exposed systemic failures in addressing seafarers’ fundamental rights. She discussed the complex nature of shipping and the difficulties this creates for seafarers to have their rights and needs met and fulfilled, and called for customers and cargo owners to ensure that seafarers’ rights are a key part of their vetting processes, ensuring that bad actors are not rewarded.

“We rely on seafarers, but they very much rely on us and I hope that this Code of Conduct is a start for change in the industry; that we stop treating seafarers as a commodity but treat them with the respect and decency that they deserve.”

Andrew Stephens, Executive Director at SSI and Christopher Saunders, Chief Product Officer at RightShip, followed Jacqueline Smith with an overview of the Delivering on seafarers’ rights Code of Conduct and self-assessment questionnaire, which cover a range of issues from fair terms of employment to minimum crewing levels, to the management of grievance mechanisms. Christopher Saunders walked through the Crew Welfare Tool developed by RightShip to enable uptake of the Code of Conduct by allowing any DOC holder to self-assess, understand the extent to which they meet their crew welfare responsibilities and identify areas of improvement.

Learn more about the RightShip Crew Welfare Tool and start your self-assessment.

Finally, Francesca Fairbairn, Shipping and Commodities Manager at IHRB facilitated a panel with representatives from charterers, finance, shipowners and managers to discuss the need for common action and shared responsibility when it comes to respecting the full spectrum of seafarers’ rights.

Panellists:

  • Sebastien Landerretche, Head of Freight Platform at Louis Dreyfus Company
  • Samantha Bramley, Executive Director of Environmental and Social Risk Management at Standard Chartered Bank
  • Simon Bennett, General Manager – Sustainable Development at Swire Shipping
  • Carl Schou, President & CEO at Wilhelmsen Ship Management

Human rights and welfare are more difficult to oversee offshore

Panellists discussed the importance of ensuring that seafarers and other offshore workers have the same rights at sea as their onshore colleagues do. In the finance sector, human rights and welfare have become increasingly important for land-based sectors, but there is a need to ensure that the same protections and priority is given to offshore workers.

Panellists agreed that seafarers are often considered an invisible workforce and as a result, can be easily overlooked and their rights can be more easily violated. Wilhelmsen Ship Management CEO Carl Schou reflected on the ship manager’s proximity to seafarers and therefore, their key role in supporting the Code of Conduct to improve conditions for their crews.

However, the pandemic has brought crew wellbeing into the spotlight, and it is our shared responsibility to ensure that the spotlight does not fade.

Seafarers are critical to the industry’s decarbonisation

Louis Dreyfus Company’s Sebastien Landerretche noted that taking action on crew welfare is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do as well. As the industry works to decarbonise, many decisions are made at the strategic level around new measures, equipment, fuels etc that will need to be implemented by the seafarer.

Taking care of our seafarers is critical to ensuring that the industry can continue to operate, safely and sustainably. Decarbonisation and seafarers’ rights and welfare should be equally prioritised.

A shared responsibility

Panellists agreed that the time for action is now, and that pressure needs to come from all sides: from the cargo owners and charterers, to the lenders, investors and insurers, to the regulators, seafarers, and shipowners, operators and managers.

At the same time, a few leaders in each group can be catalysts for change, but cannot do it alone. Samantha Bramley from Standard Chartered Bank argued that it is a shared responsibility and all must take action, as simply choosing not to work with unscrupulous shipowners still allows them to seek funding elsewhere.

Keeping the pressure up

All panellists agreed that keeping pressure and engaging with their stakeholders is critical in ensuring the systematic uptake of the Code of Conduct and increased transparency around crew welfare. Calling for use of the Delivering on seafarers’ rights Code of Conduct and self-assessment can be a key first step in stakeholder dialogue, and Swire Shipping’s Simon Bennett shared his hope that these tools will be embedded in charter party agreements. Standard Chartered Bank further shared that they will embed these tools into their standards and become part of their client discussions.

The start of a journey

The Delivering on seafarers’ rights Code of Conduct and self-assessment are the start of a journey, not the end. Creating standardised tools that can be implemented by all shipowners and operators helps increase awareness and provides a starting point for all stakeholders to work from.

Panellists agreed that seafarers’ rights and welfare have gone under the radar for too long, and that this is an opportunity to ensure that the profile stays high and that there is action across the board. RightShip’s Christopher Saunders closed the discussion by sharing that 75+ self-assessments were either completed or in progress as of 19 October, and called for all DOC holders to start reviewing and using the freely available tools.

 

If you are interested in discussing further, please view the documents below, or contact us at info@sustainableshipping.org