Human Rights at Sea attended the Swansea University (Wales, UK) legal workshop covering the issue of ‘Protection of Vulnerable People at Sea’ that exposed current academic thinking around the scope of related research areas and related activities at sea.

On the 17-18th May 2023, Swansea University’s Institute of International Shipping and Trade Law (IISTL), in partnership with the Society of Legal Scholars, hosted a key workshop as part of the emerging narrative of human rights protections of vulnerable persons at sea under international law.

In a series of oral sessions, submitted legal abstracts, papers and commentary across a range of topics were submitted and debated. These covered:

  • Protecting the Human Rights of Vulnerable Persons at Sea
  • Exclusivity of Flag State Jurisdiction on the High Seas: Is it a Problem?
  • Protecting Persons in the Context of Migration by Sea and the Use of Private Security
  • The Protection of Seafarers and Their Rights
  • Towards the Better Protection of Vulnerable People at Sea

HRAS Comment

Thanks go to Dr Youri van Logchem, Senior Lecturer in Law (IISTL, Swansea University) for organising an essential workshop that brought together leading academic thought-leaders on the issues raised.

Following on from the 2022 Wilton Park ‘Human Rights at Law at Sea’ conference, the workshop saw balanced and often vigorous debate around matters which predominantly constitute the emerging concerns around coverage, application and impact of human rights protections at sea.

In turn, this UK FCDO-led event followed on from the 2021-22 House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee Inquiry into UNCLOS being fit for purpose in the 21st Century, which, itself, has seen extensive national and international commentary, including HRAS comment on submitted evidence.

While some workshop speakers disagreed with both the weighting and legal engagement with profiling human rights within Law of the Sea casework, the consensus appeared to drive the conversation towards the inclusion of human rights standards and related instruments which can and should be used in future state, commercial, civil society and academic activities.

From a HRAS perspective, the coverage by Prof. Steven Haines and others of the Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea as an emerging soft law instrument, again shines a light on the ongoing work of civil society to codify protections of human rights at sea through existing legal instruments. The Declaration is unique in its drafting and, importantly, does not require port, coastal or flag States to undertake the development of any new law provisions.

CEO David Hammond, who attended the workshop, said: “The fact that the scale and scope of international academic work in the area of human rights at sea has advanced so quickly in the last 10+ years is clear proof that this issue is live, relevant and current for inclusion in all maritime activities.”

Dr Youri van Logchem commented: “As many people are faced with a variety of hazards while at sea, including risks of violence, organising a workshop with the backing of the SLS around this theme was highly timely. Due to the contributions from many reputable figures in the field, which also led to interesting debates between participants, the workshop successfully shone a light on the need for creating safe(r) seas, by offering better (legal) protection to vulnerable persons at sea and making sure that rights abuses committed there are better addressed. It is essential to keep the conversation going on this important topic because there is a clear need for further improvement.”


  • Dr Zoumpoulia Amaxilati (ISTL)
  • Professor Richard Barnes (University of Lincoln & University of Tromsø)
  • Professor Richard Collins (Queen’s University Belfast)
  • Professor Edwin Egede (Cardiff University)
  • Professor Steven Haines (University of Greenwich)
  • Neil Henderson (Gard AS)
  • Dr Richard L. Kilpatrick, Jr. (College of Charleston)
  • Andrea Longo (One Ocean Hub, Strathclyde University)
  • Professor Irini Papanicolopulu (SOAS University of London)
  • Dr Aphrodite Papachristodoulou (University of Galway)
  • Francesca Romana Partipilo (Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies)
  • Matilde Rocca (University of Padova)
  • Dr Mercedes Rosello (Leeds Beckett University)
  • Dr Jessica Schechinger (University of Glasgow)
  • Chris Whomersley (Former Deputy Legal Adviser, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)
  • Sir Michael Wood KC, Barrister (Twenty Essex Chambers, London)


The Institute of International Shipping and Trade Law (IISTL) is a specialist research and professional training centre within Swansea University's School of Law focusing on international shipping and trade law.

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