‘Seafarers need to be protected and respected.’
Nautilus International press release – 05 October 2011
Seafarers’ Rights International Executive Director Deirdre Fitzpatrick gave a keynote address to members at the Nautilus International General Meeting on the work of the organisation.
Seafarers’ Rights International is a research centre dedicated to the rights of seafarers, launched following Deirdre’s own experiences of representing seafarers through her work as a lawyer for the ITF, and aims to research, educate and train seafarers and the maritime industry on the legal rights of seafarers.
“It is not news to you that the global shipping industry is in turmoil,” she said.
“The maritime media is full of reports that shipowners are staring into a ‘debt abyss’, that banks are calling in their loans and a series of bankruptcies is now inevitable.”
“This means there are tough times ahead for seafarers,” she continued.
“But there are already tough times today with the issues of criminalisation, abandonment and piracy.”
The SRI launched last year during 2010 Year of the Seafarer and currently works in these three main areas and has focused the first year on three subjects – offering practical advice on seafarers’ rights and criminal law, the abandonment of seafarers and the support they will receive through MLC 2006, and the accountability of the flag state for seafarers’ rights.
“Seafarers should be treated like an asset and not a commodity,” she concluded.
“The rights of seafarers affect all those in the industry and it is in the best interests of the industry that these rights are protected and seafarers respected.”
In response to the address Carolyn Lewis from Port Welfare commented that the problem does not just lie with seafarers not understanding their rights but also in the fear of complaining.
“I am very aware of the issues seafarers face when dealing with these issues onboard,” replied Ms Fitzpatrick. “The reality is that they don’t always want to complain because it could risk their jobs and their livelihoods and that is something I would never force them to do. I want to ensure that they know their rights, and then they can choose whether they want to assert them.”
General Secretary Mark Dickinson, summed up the discussion by thanking Ms Fitzpatrick and the SRI for the work it had already undertaken and pledged the support of the union to the organisation in the future.