The inclusion in the vetting criteria by Rightship comes at a time when seafarer wellbeing and mental health has been in the spotlight more than ever due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant crew change crisis, which has left seafarers stranded on vessels well beyond the end of contract periods unsure when they will be able to return home.
Seatrade Maritime News followed up with RightShip CEO Steen Lund to find out more about why human rights and seafarer welfare had been included in the vetting criteria and its concern in terms of safety of operations.
Explaining the inclusion Lund said: “RightShip has always been vocal and active in the sphere of defending human rights and crew welfare. Providing transparency and sharing our vetting criteria with the broader industry has helped us to get our message out there.
“Covid-19 certainly presented new challenges, particularly in the case of human rights associated with the crew change crisis. However, it also brough the importance of human welfare into sharp focus.
“That’s why it was essential to add new components to the criteria that allow us to fulfil our role in the supply chain. It’s simply not something that we – or the industry - can overlook. The past year reinforced the need to work harder to achieve our shared and ambitious goal of a zero-incident future for shipping,” he told Seatrade Maritime News.
Four out of 50 (previously 20) of the expanded vetting criteria from RightShip relate to human rights.
These include a binary criteria of: “Any vessel Flagged with a country that has not adopted and ratified the 2006 Maritime Labour Convention and without an equivalent level of compliance (for example a valid ITF Agreement).”
Lund said, ‘It is our hope that this particular criterion will help us to significantly reduce human rights abuses, poor seafarer treatment and abandonment issues.”
In practical terms pass the basic safety and welfare requirements cannot receive a Safety Score of 3 or above out of 5 under the criteria. Those with a score of 3,4 or 5 (the highest possible) are highlighted on the platform for their commitment to best practice.
The binary criteria adds a black and white element in terms of compliance. “To take this one step further, within our vetting standards, we have tried to make clear binary failings. If a vet fails on one of these hurdles, the vessel cannot be recommended at all. That said, we don’t want ship owners to fail, we want them to succeed,” Lund explained.
“That said, we don’t want ship owners to fail, we want them to succeed. The criteria make the expectations very clear, so that owners can undertake the necessary work required to achieve an acceptable outcome.”
In terms of the impact of mental health and welfare on safety Lund noted seafarers already face significant burdens and mental pressures as a result of their day-to day role. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated this with prolonged periods of isolation from families and uncertainties as to when seafarers will be able to return home.
“Anecdotally, we know that mental health and wellbeing directly impacts the safety of the crew and vessel. Therefore, we must ensure that health and wellbeing measures are given equal priority to safety processes. RightShip aspires to work with the industry participants to identify the correlations between crew health, safety and wellbeing and a safe vessel and from there work on the actions required to improve the seafarers’ conditions that will trigger safety improvements,” Lund explained.
The issue of crew change, seafarer welfare and human rights has not been limited to just shipowners and managers and charterers, particularly in the dry bulk space charterers have been in the spotlight for blocking crew changes, or not allowing them under charter contracts, even where crew have served well over their maximum time allowed onboard.
Asked if this is something RightShip can influence or change Lund responded: “Currently RightShip considers human rights as part of the inspection checklist and we are looking further into the role we can play with owners, managers and charterers regarding the health and wellbeing of seafarers, which so far has been received positively by some of the larger ship managers and owners. This is a journey that can only be travelled successfully through willing partnerships.”
In the wider context of seafarer rights and welfare RightShip worked with the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) and The Mission to Seafarers for several years. With SSI RightShip has been part of the working group for the ‘Delivering on Seafarers’ Rights' project to create a Human Rights Code of Conduct for the industry.
“The need for such a Code of Conduct has been obvious for some time, but seeing more than 400,000 seafarers stranded on vessels at its peak, working beyond contracts and being exposed to repatriation failures in 2020 made the demand for change urgent,” Lund stated.
“Increasingly, there is additional pressure to improve supply chain standards for workers, with calls from investors, associations, governments and consumers to put an end to human rights violations.”
Other members of the working group include China Navigation Company, Forum for the Future, Louis Dreyfus Company, Oldendorff Carriers, Rafto Foundation, South32 and Standard Chartered Bank.
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