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Asia Steps Up the Fight for Fair Treatment of Seafarers

Asia’s leading seafaring nations have greed Guidelines on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers as they join forces to protect seafarers.

The guidelines got the green light at the regional meeting, held in Manila on November 13, which was organised by Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI), and the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

The key objective of the Manila Statement on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers, signed by senior government representatives from more than 10 countries in the region, is to ensure proper and effective implementation of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Labor Organization (ILO).

Asia is the largest supplier of seafarers to the international fleet and seafarers are recognised as essential to the conduct of international trade and as a special category of worker.

“Given the global nature of the shipping industry and the different jurisdictions that seafarers may be brought into contact with, they need special protection, especially in relation to contacts with public authorities in the event of a maritime accident,” SRI said.

Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of SRI, said the Manila Statement on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers is a crucial step in the fight to raise awareness over the Fair Treatment of seafarers.

“A number of governments have already implemented the guidelines but many others need to consider them and look at how they can be implemented within their own legislation, and how capacity can be built among all stakeholders and role players to ensure more effective implementation and enforcement of the fundamental rights contained in the guidelines.”

Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), welcomed the Manila Statement saying this powerful statement charts the way forward for the work on the fair treatment of seafarers.

“The ITF, representing over twenty million transport workers, is totally committed to working with the people here today to ensure that this statement is a success, and results in better working conditions for all seafarers,” Cotton said.

“Now the hard work begins, we must create an implementation plan to roll out the statement to ensure that every seafarer feels the benefits of what has been agreed here today; that they receive fair treatment.”

The guidelines are voluntary, and do not seek to interfere with any state’s domestic, criminal, or civil law. Instead, they balance the rights and obligations of port and coastal states, flag states, the seafarers’ states, shipowners and seafarers.