According to results of an eight-language survey based on 3,480 completed questionnaires that has been submitted to the IMO by Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI), seafarers revealed fears of unfair treatment, intimidation, scapegoating and a lack of legal representation and interpretation services. More than 85% of the seafarers surveyed said that they were concerned about the possibility of facing criminal charges.
Nearly half of respondents said that they would be reluctant to co-operate fully and openly with casualty inquiries and accident investigators because of concerns they could be implicated in a crime, a lack of trust in the authorities, or for fear it would have a prejudicial effect on their employment.
The findings suggest that the rights of seafarers, as enshrined in the IMO Guidelines on Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the event of a Maritime Accident, are “theoretical and illusory”, according to Deirdre Fitzpatrick, executive director of SRI. “Since criminal laws are largely tailored to nationals, they are an uneasy fit for foreign and temporary transnational workers. It is clear that seafarers are more exposed to criminal proceedings than many other workers and therefore need special assistance.”