Asian nations seek fairer treatment for seafarers

Malcolm Latarche

Malcolm Latarche · 14 November 2018


A Regional Meeting of Asia’s leading seafaring nations has highlighted the plight many seafarers face in the event of a maritime accident and has pledged to lead the drive towards proper and effective implementation of the IMO and ILO agreed Guidelines on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers.

The Regional Meeting, held in Manila was organised by Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI), an international pan-industry body researching maritime and seafarers’ law, and DOLE, the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment. It was held as a direct result of a highly successful international conference on the Guidelines held by SRI at the IMO Headquarters in London in June of last year. Representatives from more than 50 countries attending that specially held conference, called for regional meetings to be convened to discuss the Guidelines and how they aligned with national legal frameworks.

Ship Crew

Issuing the first ever Manila Statement on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers, senior government representatives from more than 10 countries in the region said the time was right for action to be taken to protect their seafarers.

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. The decision by the Asian countries to take the lead in the fight for the Fair Treatment of Seafarers is significant and will now pave the way for other regions to follow suit.

The Guidelines, which are voluntary, do not seek to interfere with any State's domestic, criminal, or civil law. Instead, they balance the rights and obligations of stakeholders to whom the Guidelines are addressed, namely port and coastal states, flag states, the seafarers’ states, shipowners and seafarers.

Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of SRI, said announcement of 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 to ensure more effective implementation and enforcement of the fundamental rights contained in the Guidelines.”

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