New ITF criminalisation toolkit for seafarer unions

The ITF has produced a toolkit for its seafarer unions to help them lobby governments to implement international guidelines to prevent the unfair treatment of seafarers following accidents and pollution at sea.

The toolkit highlights cases where seafarers have been scapegoated for accidents and pollution which have arisen as a result of circumstances beyond their control. Common complaints from seafarers include a lack of legal representation and interpretation services.

The ITF wants to see wider promotion and enforcement of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and International Labour Organization (ILO) Guidelines on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the event of a maritime accident, which were adopted in 2006.

The toolkit also contains:

• A letter for unions to use to lobby their national governments

• A letter to shipowners seeking their support when talking to national governments

• Information and explanatory notes on the Fair Treatment Guidelines and on the Casualty Investigation Code, which sets out mandatory safeguards for seafarers required to provide evidence.

Additiionally, the ITF would like all countries to adopt legislation which requires seafarers to co-operate with accident investigations into maritime accidents but makes their information privileged and anonymous, to encourage seafarer participation without fear of unfair charges being pursued against them personally.

ITF maritime co-ordinator Jaqueline Smith said: “Criminalisation is a very serious problem for seafarers. They are too often detained and denied access to normal rules of fair play and justice with which to defend themselves against criminal charges.

“Seafarers have a right to undertake their work without fear of being treated unfairly, or, even worse, placed in detention without recourse to fair justice and representation.

“We urge our unions to use the new toolkit, both to put pressure on their governments to implement and enforce the guidelines, and to inform seafarers of their rights.”

Download the ITF toolkit on criminalisation of seafarers. It is also available in Spanish, French, Russian and Arabic.

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