IMO responds to HRAS Commentary concerning seafarer abandonment

IMO Response to HRAS Commentary

Following the 20th October commentary from Human Rights at Sea concerning the issue of seafarer abandonment and assertion of continuing owner impunity, the IMO has submitted a response and clarification to the HRAS commentary which the charity is pleased to publish as a matter of transparency and clarity.

The IMO clarification relates to the position and use of the IMO/ILO database by commercial entities, as well as its own commitment to addressing the issue of the abandonment of seafarers.


“What we actually see happening now is that market forces take the information of the Joint IMO/ILO Database into account for their vetting of ships. We welcome this as really good news on the abandonment of seafarers issue and the outreach of this information is exactly the reason for which the Joint IMO/ILO Database should be used for.

The IMO Legal Committee when it  considered the issue of abandoned seafarers at its 104th session in April this year concluded that further work will be taken up to improve the functioning of the IMO/ILO database. IMO, as well as ILO, will remain very much committed to the issue of abandonment of seafarers and the issue has a high priority on the IMO agenda.”

Jan de Boer, Senior Legal Officer, Legal Affairs and External Relations Division

23 October 2017


Noting the IMO’s clarification to a short section of the charity’s Commentary, Human Rights at Sea remains very concerned at the current lack of co-ordinated and effective international response to this pernicious issue, in terms of speedy solutions for crew repatriation that are agreed and effectively able to be implemented at State level.

The issue is far from being new.

At the time of writing and based on evidence submitted to HRAS, the lack of ability to quickly repatriate affected crews following abandonment, and who in some reported cases have been away from their families for upto 19 months, highlights the continuing lack of an effective system able to help affected crews from a $billion industry.


Updated Article

Human Rights at Sea Comment


20 October 2017

Updated 25 October 2017

Human Rights at Sea today calls for renewed and reinvigorated international efforts to deliver faster solutions, effective remedies and repatriation for all stranded and abandoned seafarers in the global shipping industry, and a greater focus on naming and shaming owners who otherwise revel in their impunity from being held accountable.

The charity, alongside other civil society organisations and international welfare charities, continues to publicly highlight crew suffering due to owner abandonment and yet, despite public indications of apparent action, the shipping community, as a body, lacks firm leadership and effective tools to end owner’s impunity from prosecution, provide effective sanctions, and fails to provide effective remedy for the very human beings which provide the lifeblood of the industry, and its profit.

Kitack Lim IMO-Consular Corps of London Event 22 June 2017. Photo Credit: SeaTrade Maritime News

Kitack Lim, Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) stated in June of this year, that: “We have a human duty to protect seafarers, and we must not hide from it.”

The SG also said in that speech in respect of owners who abandon crew, that: “…instead of fixing the problem they find it cheaper and easier just to walk away.”

True, but this is not a new phenomenon and so why are we only addressing it now?

The SG further highlighted that, “… in 2016 concerns were expressed, by both the industry and the media, that there were abandonment cases that had not been reported; and that some information in the database was not current. Since then, IMO, along with ILO, the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Transport Workers’ Federation have been working hard to address these matters and, as was reported to the IMO Legal Committee earlier this year, this important database has now been updated.”

Not according to our publicly available evidence and case studies.

The ILO database, first supported by the International Shipsuppliers & Services Association and established on 1 April 2005, is now being utilised by commercial companies such as Right Ship as reported by Splash 24/7.

Meantime, can UN organisations not deal with the issue? Is there not enough dedicated researchers and staff between London and Geneva to handle the limited number of reported cases? If UN bodies can not achieve what is needed with senior diplomatic intervention, what real hope is there?

Progress on this issue continues to be painfully slow and the true reality is that the industry really does not care despite what is postured and articulated by retained media teams keen to keep positive messaging flowing.

Let us, therefore, try a new tack.

Why not tell the truth. Identify the weakness and individual failures to address impunity at state-level? Hold port and flag States accountable, where applicable?

Get the issue on the table as a long-term priority at the IMO and ILO and provide a long-term solution, not soundbites, and certainly not have it undertaken behind closed doors thereby exacerbating the current lack of transparency in the shipping community.

This is the very least that is owed to loyal crews and their families, many who suffer the kind of food and family privations that if encountered at 4 Albert Embankment, London, or 4 route des Morillons, Genève, would be subject to uproar and immediate rectification.

Meantime, the evidence being submitted to our charity tells of a compelling story of owners who continue to revel in their impunity. Further, it appears that crews around the world increasingly realise that other routes for reporting their plight are being quietly suppressed, are overseen and funded by entities with vested interests in controlling the narrative and the data, and as a consequence, their stories are rarely told.

By way of an example, Human Rights at Sea today publishes with permission, more videos provided by Indian seafarers stranded on the MT Dharma, a vessel abandoned off the UAE coast in Ajman anchorage for the past ten months.


The state of the MT Dharma vessel reportedly owned by Alco Shipping Services, with the notable strap-line of “Because we care about our commitment”, is factually terrible. From presented evidence, it appears unseaworthy and despite the pleas of an experienced Master, his voice has been left unheard, until now.

The following statement is provided to Human Rights at Sea through its NGO partner, Justice Upheld, with permission to publish. View the original here.


DATE – 18/10/2017


To, The Justice Upheld Lawyers of International Humanitarian organisation.

Dear Mam,


I am working in Alco Shipping Services LLC since last 02/08/2015. My contract only 12 mont, I send my signoff letter in company last October 2016, and I send many time salary request in company but still no any response for salary and signoff, we are all 7 indian sea farers on board this vessel. My 27 month finish and other six crew members 21 month finish in this company on this vessel. Company don’t give salary and signoff. All crew 18-19 month salary our vessel condition also is very critical. Many hole have shipside and ship forpick totly damage. Our all crew health also not good, our engine also not working. Our condition is very critical. We are all belong to a poor family. Our parents also I tendon.

They waiting for us. When we come home and our parents look us, we want to see our parents. All crew physically condition is very bad. We many time call to company but anybody don’t pic our call. Our vessel condition is very critical in sea rough we all die here. We want to go home back and see our parents.

Thanks and regards

Ashwani Kumar Kataria, Master MV DHARMA.


In conclusion, seafarer abandonment is both a historic and on-going issue which must have a continuous and concerted effort and focus maintained on delivering an effective remedy against unscrupulous owners who put commercial values before human rights, and profit before people. 




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