IMO’s Legal Committee has finalized a new set of guidelines to ensure seafarers are protected against unfair treatment if detained in foreign jurisdictions on suspicion of committing a crime.

The fair treatment of seafarers was high on the agenda of the Legal Committee’s 111st session, which took place from 22 to 26 April at IMO headquarters in London, chaired by Ms. Gillian Grant of Canada.

The guidelines are to be applied where seafarers may be detained in a jurisdiction other than that of the seafarers' nationality on suspicion of committing crimes during the course of their employment on board a ship. They aim to protect seafarers’ right to due process during investigation and detention by public authorities.  

In his closing remarks, IMO Secretary-General Mr. Arsenio Dominguez said: “The well-being of seafarers continues to be of great concern to me and to the entire Membership of IMO…  The Guidelines will add a significant value in resolving the challenges faced by seafarers and ensure that seafarers are treated fairly.”

The guidelines contain guidance for port States, flag States, coastal States, States of which the seafarer is a national, shipowners and seafarers.  

The finalized guidelines will be submitted as a base document to the Joint ILO/IMO Tripartite Working Group to identify and address seafarers' issues and the human element (JTWG) for further refinement. The JTWG will then submit the guidelines to the Legal Committee and to the ILO Governing Bodies for endorsement.

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New task force to review abandonment database  

The Committee established a new Task Force to review and update or redevelop the joint ILO/IMO abandonment database, to enhance accuracy and efficiency of the platform.

The ILO/IMO database contains regularly updated information on vessels and seafarers that have been reported as abandoned worldwide. Seafarer abandonment happens when shipowners fail to fulfil obligations to seafarers related to timely repatriation, payment of outstanding wages or salary, and even the provision of basic necessities such as food, accommodation and medical care.  

An upgrade of the system would enhance data accuracy and monitoring capabilities and support the swifter resolution of abandonment cases. This will support the implementation of the Guidelines on how to deal with seafarer abandonment cases, adopted at LEG 110.

The Task Force will submit a report to the JTWG, who will then conduct a final review and provide a clear report to the ILO Governing Body and the IMO Legal Committee for endorsement.   

LEG 111 outcomes

In addition to the fair treatment of seafarers, the Legal Committee made progress on a number of major issues, including on fraudulent registration and fraudulent registries of ships, autonomous shipping, measures to assess the need to amend liability limits and guidelines for accepting Insurance Companies and Certificates.

Source: IMO


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Issue 90 of Robban Assafina

(Mar./April 2024)


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