SSI, IHRB start project focusing on seafarers’ rights

The Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) and the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB), along with SSI members, have launched a new project focusing on seafarers’ labour and human rights.

The project, entitled “Delivering on seafarers’ rights”, will develop a human rights code of conduct for charterers, and a roadmap for tackling systemic challenges which create human rights risks for seafarers – a widely recognised gap in catalysing industry-wide policy and practice.

According to SSI, the challenge of protecting and respecting seafarers rights was thrust into the spotlight with the emergence of hundreds of thousands seafarers stranded at sea due to crew change restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Alongside this increased public awareness of the challenges seafarers worldwide face, there is a growing demand from consumers, investors, business partners, governments, and civil society for transparent and sustainable supply chains that address human rights along with environmental concerns.

Charterers are also increasingly under scrutiny with regard to the sustainability of their supply chains, not only in terms of their commodities but also the vessels that transport their cargo. However, there is currently a lack of guidance on how labour and human rights risks should be identified and mitigated. Plugging this gap is key to strengthening both chartering-related decision-making and due diligence processes, the project partners believe.

This project will see charterers play an active role in raising the industry’s bar through the development of an industry code of conduct for actors joined together across the shipping value chain. Based on international labour and human rights standards and principles, this work will bring charterers, shipowners, and operators together for collective action, increasing transparency and driving positive change.

The work will further explore ways in which seafarers’ rights can be addressed by demanding transparency on labour and human rights risks, for example – through contractual terms and chartering provisions.

“Respect of the labour and human rights of seafarers worldwide is a key milestone on the road to sustainable shipping. We strongly believe in the power of transparency to drive positive change, and through this work we seek to catalyse collective action and leadership by charterers to advocate for more robust human rights protection within the industry,” Andrew Stephens, Executive Director at SSI, commented.

“COVID restrictions have stranded over 300,000 seafarers at sea worldwide, thrusting the human rights risks of shipping into the spotlight as never before. IHRB welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with SSI and its members in raising the bar across the industry whereby respect for international human rights standards becomes part of everyday business,” Frances House, Deputy Chief Executive at IHRB, said.

“An industry-wide code of conduct affirming the human rights responsibilities of shipowners and operators will help to level the playing field and enable cargo owners and investors to make more informed choices around whom they want to do business with.”

The project also brings together SSI members — The China Navigation Company, Forum for the Future, Louis Dreyfus Company, Oldendorff Carriers, RightShip, South32, and Standard Chartered Bank.