Press Release

“We were forgotten and abandoned by everybody.”
London. UK. On World Human Rights Day 2021, Human Rights at Sea publishes an independent review chronicling an ongoing humanitarian crisis at sea and the continued violation of seafarers’ human and labour rights.

When COVID-19 thrust the shipping industry into disarray in early 2020, the global seafaring workforce suddenly faced human, labour, and social rights abuses.

Drawing from 40 publicly accessible reports, articles and documents, this publication recounts the magnitude of risks to seafarers’ rights during the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights 10 areas of abuse.

Cited as the single greatest threat to the global shipping industry since the Second World War, the ‘crew change crisis’ saw around 400,000 seafarers stranded on their vessels at its height in 2020.

However, long-term underreporting of abuses in the maritime industry, combined with often ineffective application of existing legislation, has created a systemic threat to the adequate protection of seafarers’ rights which extends beyond the distresses witnessed during the early stages of the pandemic.

Using its expertise and experience, Human Rights at Sea make three key recommendations to better protect seafarers and their families through increased public transparency of cases, better media profiling, and the exposure of known abusers for increased deterrent effect.

The shipping industry is urged to rapidly address the recommendations and adopt these measures should it wish to truly be the global influencer that it claims to be.

HRAS Comment

“As supply chains keep moving, the stamping on seafarers’ fundamental rights quietly continues unabated as evidenced through international reporting. What is occurring behind the scenes can only be extrapolated from the limited cases which make it to the public’s awareness compounded by a top-down unwillingness and IMO policy not to expose abusers for an embedded fear of tainting reputations and upsetting states.” David Hammond, CEO.

Stamping on Seafarers’ Rights during the COVID-19 Pandemic. 10 December 2021.