Human Rights at Sea End of Year Message
Since its launch on 3 April 2014, the Human Rights at Sea initiative has developed well beyond the expectations of the HRAS founding team and all those involved in establishing what is a new, independent and internationally focused human rights platform that explicitly addresses issues surrounding human rights provisions, protections and potential remedies in the maritime environment.
Underpinned by the founding principle that ‘Human rights apply at sea, as equally as they do on land’ and with governance overseen by both trustees and a growing number of external subject matter expert advisors, contractual legal support from Holman Fenwick Willan LLP, banking services provided by Barclays Bank Plc and an established London head office, the future appears bright for 2015.
At the time of writing, I am very pleased to be able to report that in just 9 months, HRAS has become established through pro bono ‘correspondents’ in 12 states, it has 47 international “Supporting Entity’ partners, it is running 7 international programmes which includes developing new and innovative Corporate Social Responsibility documentation specifically based around maritime human rights provisions and now provides investigative, psychological and anti-trafficking support services through collaborative partners. Today, “Human Rights at Sea” and its emerging work including that covering “missing seafarers” can be found on the first page of all internet search engines for the search terms, and it is a recognised resource for seafarers on the IMO website.
In addition, HRAS is involved in the independent investigation of two cases of suspected murder of seafarers in international waters following previous failures to investigate by the relevant authorities and prompted by family requests to assist. Meantime, one case of a Sri Lankan missing seafarer has led to the concept, development and funding of what has become the HRAS flagship programme; the ‘Missing Seafarers & Fishers Reporting Programme’.
The Missing Seafarers & Fishers Reporting Programme (“ the Programme”), to be made available via www.missingseafarers.org & www.missingseamen.org, is a vanguard initiative that has undergone rapid development since the concept was first conceived in September of this year. Initial funding has been provided through a sizeable grant from Seafarers UK, while the secure database and platform is currently being built by CData Services Ltd Southampton, UK, for launch in late January 2015.
The Programme aims to primarily support seafarers and their families on a global basis through the on-line registration of seafarers and fishermen missing at sea via an independent international platform. That platform will be known as the Missing Seafarers Register (“the Register”).
The Register, as it evolves, will become an international multi-lingual on-line platform for registering, tracking, updating, profiling and raising awareness of missing seafarers and fishermen on a global basis. It will be aimed at being used by multiple stakeholders, including, but not limited to, family members, employers of missing seafarers, NGOs, flag States, insurers, individual Governments and the UN (under the auspices of the IMO) for their awareness and where applicable, their intervention and investigation. It is a work-in-progress.
Looking forwards to 2015, HRAS will be delivering a range of model voluntary corporate social responsibility documentation, some of which is being funded through the EU. It will continue to enhance established international projects, it will increase international profile and exposure through out the maritime industry and it will be seeking to gain overt support from shipping associations, owners and insurers, particularly for the Missing Seafarers & Fishers Reporting Programme. I am, at this time, reminded of the quote that I used at the April launch from Anders Lassen VC: “The men who go first are rarely popular with those who wait for the wind to blow”.
In the December edition of ‘Anchor’, the Australian Shipowners Association publication, when asked if I could change one thing in the maritime sector, my response was: “Increased influence and engagement of women, welfare organisations and NGOs in the high-level decision and long-term policy making of the IMO”. Consequently, for 2015, HRAS will be gently advocating to member states, NGOs, members of the IMO, as well as the IMO itself, the need for greater overt and explicit engagement in the field of human rights for 2015 and beyond.
Penultimately, I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all individuals, national and international bodies, EU organisations, HRAS interns and all other interested persons who have enthusiastically supported Human Rights at Sea in its first year, specifically noting that 9 months ago there was no international maritime human rights platform in existence. I now look forward, in 2015, to debunking any myths and negative reporting within the maritime sector concerning HRAS, developing the Missing Seafarers & Fishers Reporting Programme, and showing the international community that it is not just right and proper, but for those to whom it applies, makes good business sense to engage in the field of human rights in a positive and balanced way.
Finally, I want to end by sincerely expressing that my thoughts are with those seafarers, fishermen and their families who will be apart during this holiday period and especially, for those families who have lost loved ones at sea.
Founder, Human Rights at Sea
23 December 2014