Summer 2013

 

SEAFARERS UNPREPARED FOR LEGAL TROUBLE

SRI survey highlights fears of lack of due process and criminalisation

In a report presented at the landmark 100th session of the Legal Committee of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) earlier this year, SRI delivered a range of important suggestions from seafarers on how to improve their situation when facing criminal charges.

The suggestions, which emanated from a comprehensive eight language survey conducted by SRI over a 12-month period to February 2012, focus as much on fears of their own human rights being violated as on a lack of due process in the criminal process.

Seafarers want:

  • More information on the risks they are exposed to in relation to criminal charges
  • Information on their rights if they are defendants, complainants or witnesses
  • Good and free legal representation when facing criminal charges
  • A fair process and fair treatment when facing criminal charges
  • A greater network of support from all the various stakeholders in the maritime industry if they do face criminal charges
  • More uniform laws and procedures given the wide range of different crimes to which they are exposed

According to the seafarers themselves, there is a frequent lack of due process for seafarers who face criminal charges. Seafarers are complaining of unfair treatment, intimidation and a lack of legal representation and interpretation services. Almost half of the seafarers in the survey said that they would be reluctant to co-operate fully and openly with casualty inquiries and accident investigators because of concerns they could be implicated in a crime; because they do not trust the authorities; and because they are concerned that co-operation would have a prejudicial affect upon their employment.

“The seafarers’ suggestions for what is needed to improve their situation, or their perception of their situation, offer a challenge to the maritime industry and to prosecuting authorities generally, if seafaring is to remain a viable option for young people,” said Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of SRI, who commissioned the survey.

 “Since criminal laws are largely tailored to nationals, they are an uneasy fit for foreign and temporary transnational workers. It is clear that seafarers are more exposed to criminal proceedings than many other workers and therefore need special assistance,” she added.

A total of 3,480 completed questionnaires were submitted by seafarers from 68 different nationalities.

The findings in the survey strongly suggest that the rights of seafarers, as enshrined in the Guidelines on Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the event of a Maritime Accident, adopted by the IMO and the International Labour Organization (ILO) are often be subject to violation: itself causing widespread concern among seafarers.

As many as 85.04% of seafarers surveyed, said that they are concerned about facing criminal charges. The main reasons were that seafarers feel they are scapegoated. Also seafarers feel there are numerous regulations which make them more vulnerable to being criminalised.

“The message from seafarers is loud and clear,” added Ms Fitzpatrick, “Seafarers are saying that their rights are theoretical and illusory; they need them to be practical and effective.

“The SRI survey has brought the seafarers’ concerns to the fore and it is hoped it will create momentum amongst stakeholders – seafarers’ organisations, employers, regulators and non-governmental bodies, in addition to seafarers themselves – to better address the unfair treatment of seafarers.  It seems that much remains to be done to protect this body of essential workers from unfairness and injustice but the effort is essential not only for the protection of serving seafarers, but also to improve the image of the profession for new recruits to come,” Ms Fitzpatrick concluded.

USING LAWYERS

SRI launches the first in a new series of Fact Files for seafarers

Seafarers may have to call on the services of a lawyer during their working lives but how do they choose the right lawyer, what do they tell the lawyer, and how does the novice negotiate legal fees or even secure free legal advice?
SRI has launched the first of a new series of Fact Files aimed at seafarers to inform them about various aspects of their rights and how to deal with legal situations they may face in the course of their employment. Compiled by experts, the Seafarer Fact Files will provide practical guidance on how to deal with many of the difficult situations seafarers encounter when needing the protection of the law.

The first Fact File, entitled ‘Using Lawyers’ is designed to provide practical guidance for a seafarer when he has no option but to resort to the law and needs the services of a lawyer to assist in this regard.

“For seafarers, seeking the advice of a lawyer may be one of the most stressful events of their career. Not only are they dealing with the effects of the incident that has led them to this point, but they are also pursuing a course of action which seems too often fraught with confusion, difficulties and worries about expense” said Deirdre Fitzpatrick.
“The Seafarer Fact File will provide some initial practical advice including suggestions on how to find an appropriate lawyer.  For seafarers, this first step is often the most difficult – how do they find a lawyer who is expert in the problem they have, and willing to act for the seafarer, since often maritime lawyers already act for shipowners or their insurance interests”

The Fact File on Using Lawyers is available in English, and also 10 other languages:  Chinese (Simplified), Turkish, Tagalog, Indonesian, Russian, Spanish, Japanese, Burmese, Polish, French.

Copies are available from SRI and also on the website of SRI. 

Published as a convenient A6 leaflet it also contains an easy to use credit card sized checklist that the seafarer can carry for easy reference.

 

Visitors to the SRI website can access the Using Lawyers Fact Files. In addition SRI has produced a series of national guides across 30 countries. For further information click here.

 

 

PROFILES  

Interview: Captain Kuba Szymanski

Secretary General of InterManager and SRI Advisory Board Member

When Kuba Szymanski was asked to consider joining the SRI Advisory Board he didn’t have to think twice.

“We need to support our seafarers,” he explained.  “I have never stopped being a seafarer at heart and now I can provide payback for all these years others invested in me, my education and my wellbeing. It never fails to amaze me how many lawyers we have specialising in Cargo and Ship related matters and how few are actually dealing with seafarers. How poorly we, the shipping industry, are prepared to defend our biggest jewel – the seafarer himself. I believe that piracy, criminalisation and abandonment are the three biggest issues that SRI should address and if I can make some contribution to this then then it is my obligation, and my earnest desire to do so.”

His ethos is summed up by this comment from fellow advisory board member Judge Thomas Mensah, who said “The quality of the industry ultimately depends on the quality of the people in it.”

Captain Kuba Szymanski’s love affair with the sea began in childhood when he was enticed to this life through the books of Joseph Conrad and Polish maritime author Karol Borchardt.

Young Kuba began his lifetime relationship with all things maritime by sailing dinghies on the Polish lakes before progressing to “serious” off shore sailing. As a young lad he joined other Polish scouts to sail around the UK on board a 46ft yacht – a trip which confirmed his decision to go to sea.

Kuba Szymanski started his professional maritime career in 1985. Over the next two years he took part in two six-month trips to the Falkland Islands as a cadet with the Polish Deep Sea Fishery Company “ODRA”.

He then graduated from the Maritime University of Szczecin with a Masters degree and in 1990 he achieved his goal – started a life at sea, beginning in the role of junior officer with BP (Dorchester Maritime Ltd Isle of Man). He sailed worldwide on product tankers, progressing through the ranks aboard gas, chemical and product tankers with companies such as Bernard Schulte, KOSAN and Maersk to reach his first command as a Master in 1999.

Captain Szymanski’s first command was on board LPG carrier Hermann Schulte. He followed this with roles on board chemical and product carriers Maersk Baffin and Maersk Biscay.

In 2001 he “swallowed the anchor” as a Marine Superintendent in the parent Dorchester Maritime Ltd on the Isle of Man, and was promoted to Marine Manager, DPA in 2004. However, feeling he had gaps in his education, he also enrolled to study at Lloyds Open University to gain a Diploma in Marine Superintendency, then at Warsash Maritime College on its Vetting Inspector Course.

During that time he then studied for an Executive MBA at the International Business School on the Isle of Man, which was affiliated to John Moores University, Liverpool.  Now he shares that knowledge by regularly lecturing on Risk Management, Information Management and Management of Change and also on the Superintendency Courses at the International Business School, Isle of Man.

Following his 17 years working for Dorchester Maritime Ltd, Captain Szymanski joined MOLTANK Ship Management in London as a General Manager.

He was awarded Fellowship of the Nautical Institute in 2009 and in 2010 joined InterManager as Secretary General, moving back to the Isle of Man.

Capt. Szymanski joined Seafarers Rights International in 2010 as an Advisory Board member. He said: “I believe I bring a “maritime” flavour to the board, and my role at InterManager means that I can share the latest industry developments when we meet.  That coupled with my Ship Management background means I feel I am making a real contribution to finding solutions to the problems and issues concerning our seafarers”.   

He is also an active member of the Nautical Institute, participating in the works of its Council, and recently as a member of the Executive Council.

His spare time is spent in active pursuits: His love of the sea is satisfied on board his SIGMA 33 sailing racer which has enabled him to compete in many races. In addition he is a ski instructor in the Austrian Alps and a sharp shooter at Laxey air pistol shooting club.

Capt. Szymanski’s active life doesn’t end there: he finds time to take part in the island’s annual charity Parish Walks – an 85 mile race in which he raises money for Polish charity “LIVER” which helps children with liver disorder. Kuba’s best time of 22hrs 10 min comfortably placed him within the 24 hours needed to complete the race.

His love of the sea is still central to his life. Kuba strongly supports Seafarers of  UK and takes part in numerous fund raising events such as the 24 peaks challenge and the Isle of Wight sailing and cycling challenge.

Interview: Father Bruno Ciceri

Representative for the Apostleship of the Sea at the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, Vatican City, and SRI Advisory Board Member

Father Bruno Ciceri thought his experiences working in the Philippines had provided him with an understanding of the harsh realities facing seafarers. But his baptism of fire occurred in 1996 when he was assigned to work at the port of Kaohsiung, Southern Taiwan, Province of China. “That was when I got full immersion on working with seafarers,” he said. “I arrived there in February and by July, I had a crew of 20 people rescued at sea, following the sinking of their vessel. These 20 people stayed in my centre from July to November, when I was able to send home the last few crew members.”

At that time he determined that it was only through direct involvement with seafarers in need that a true understanding of their plight could be achieved.

“This is when he I started learning very quickly about the maritime world, and all its different organisations”, he explained.  “Because Kaohsiung is the biggest fishery port of Taiwan, Province of China, I also started to get involved with fishermen, including foreign ones from the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam, onboard the Taiwanese fishing vessels.”

As Father Ciceri explained, the level of violence, exploitation and abuse which he uncovered when talking with these fishermen was “unbelievable” and was certainly an eye-opener at the beginning of his 13-year term working in Kaohsiung.

Father Ciceri began his education in seafaring working in Asia for 25 years as regional Co-ordinator for the AoS and for the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA) – the first 11 years in the Philippines supporting migrant workers.

His current role now sees him based in Vatican City serving the interests of  seafarers and fisherman for the AoS at the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, and he is in charge of co-ordinating activities for this sector at an international level.

When asked how this role contrasts with his past job of liaising directly with seafarers, Father Ciceri said: “Coming from direct involvement with people, then to suddenly find yourself in front of a desk with a computer and paperwork – it’s not an easy thing. But on the other hand, I think it’s important to be here because we have opportunities to meet the Bishops when they come to visit the Pope.”

Father Ciceri explained that recently, he has hosted visits from the Bishops of Angola, Australia and the USA. These meetings have afforded Father Ciceri and his colleagues the opportunity to provide their own suggestions and input concerning the maritime world, ensuring the message and aims of AoS are observed at “a higher level”.

When asked about his role on the SRI Advisory Board, Father Ciceri praised the work it is carrying out.  He made it clear that chaplains in the field have to study laws effecting seafarers, but that this is a lengthy process, and so the project work anticipated from SRI will prove a “wonderful” tool. “We must highlight the need for provision of welfare services for seafarers with national governments, ship owners, port authorities, etcetera” he said.  “This would be great because this is where we can intervene on a more practical level.”

He also insisted that the greatest problem for seafarers is that “their rights are not respected”. He said seafarers rights have been “systematically violated”, particularly in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and added that in Europe and the US, there is a certain structure so seafarer’s rights are more protected.

However, he added that all chaplains should become well-acquainted with both local and national law to ensure they can be of most assistance to seafarers particularly in countries such as Taiwan, Province of China, which is not part of the United Nations (UN).  “You can quote all the International Labour and International Maritime Organization conventions possible, but no-one is obliged to follow them there. You cannot do anything. What becomes really important at that point is the local legislation and when the local legislation is written in Chinese, it’s tough. I was lucky because I was able to have a group for local, Taiwanese lawyers who were helping us out on a voluntarily basis.”

You could be forgiven for thinking this veteran of maritime health and wellbeing causes may have seen it all, but according to Father Ciceri, piracy is the most significant problem at this time, not only for seafarers but also for their families: “When we talk about piracy, often we concentrate on the seafarer himself but we should not forget that behind him is a family and often, nothing is being provided to them,” Father Ciceri said. AoS has assisted the families of many hostages, including family members of the five Italian and 17 Indian crew members of the Savina Caylyn (the oil tanker which was hijacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean in February 2011).

LAWYERS SIGN UP TO SUPPORT SEAFARERS

SRI announces ground-breaking new Legal Charter

In an important contribution to the welfare of seafarers around the world, SRI has launched a new “Charter of Good Practice for Provision of Legal Services to Seafarers”.

The Charter will help any seafarer in need to find a lawyer who is knowledgeable in maritime labour issues, and willing to work for seafarers at reasonable cost.

“As part of our work, we frequently encounter seafarers in need of legal assistance. Whilst we cannot recommend one law firm over another, we can invite law firms to step up to the plate and commit to a set of principles that give the seafarer reassurance that the lawyer is acting in his best interests.

“We are inviting law firms around the world to subscribe to a Charter which protects the interests of the seafarer and guarantees he or she will be treated fairly, respectfully and without discrimination.“ 

Key Features of the Charter

  • To treat the seafarer fairly, respectfully and without discrimination.
  • To provide the seafarer with the best possible information in easily understandable language so that informed decisions can be made about the available options.
  • To provide the seafarer with the best possible information about the lawyer’s/law firm’s fees and expenses, and about any available third party funding for the matter.  Fees and expenses will be fair and reasonable. 
  • To progress the matter diligently and to keep the seafarer informed regularly. 
  • To act competently employing the necessary expertise in the law relating to the seafarer’s specific matter.
  • To act in accordance with instructions received from, and arrangements made with, the seafarer.
  • To act for the seafarer free from conflict of interests.
  • To keep the seafarer’s affairs confidential.
  • To review the matter regularly and keep the seafarer informed when it is completed.

Click here for full details of the SRI Charter for Legal Services to Seafarers.

The Charter has already been subscribed to  by over 100 lawyers from 50 different law firms across 34 countries worldwide.

The SRI website will be updated regularly with the details of those lawyers worldwide who have committed to the scheme.

INTERVIEW WITH KOJI SEKIMIZU, IMO SECRETARY GENERAL

Koji Sekimizu took the reins as IMO Secretary General last summer.  SRI asked him about the importance of the MLC (Maritime Labour Convention), what it means for seafarers and how the IMO sees the MLC improve the working lives of those who are really important to the shipping industry.

“We all understand that MLC is very important – it is definitely one of the most important international instruments together with SOLAS, MARPOL and STCW.

In order to ensure a sustainable seafaring business and a sustainable maritime business, our industry relies on the quality of its seafarers both now and in the future.

“But in order to ensure that quality we need a coordinated effort at the IMO and also at the ILO,” he stressed.  “We need too, cooperation from shipowners, training and educational institutes, the flag states and the industry in general. Regulations can set competence requirements but ultimately it is the IMO’s responsibility to deliver high quality well trained seafarers to manage vessels.“

When it comes to the seafarers’ working conditions, Mr Sekimizu is clear. “Of course the MLC has an important role in our business to ensure working conditions and hours of rest. But that has to be implemented, with the understanding and support from ship owners, the shipping industry, and of course, the flag states. This commitment will generate a continuous flow of excellent seafarers, and this success story will spread the message that shipping is a good business and seafaring is a good career for the new generation – and hence attract the highest calibre recruits.

“If we do not improve the working conditions and conditions for seafarers onboard, then the trained seafarer cannot perform adequately and quality recruits will not be attracted to the industry. The result would be an increase in accidents and pollution and this in turn would damage the image of shipping, making it impossible to promote to future generations of seafarers.”

When asked whether the seafarer was becoming more important to the present and future workings of the IMO, Mr Sekimizu replied decisively:

“Whether more or less is not the question. We want to ensure that the role of the seafarer is seen crucial to support the future of shipping, and we will continue to promote seafaring. The important thing is not only the image but also the reality. We want to achieve a proper recognition by the wider world of the role played by shipping, international maritime transport and the activities of seafarers. This is no

not an easy task and I am taking every opportunity to impress and indicate the importance of seafarers and maritime transport inside and outside the shipping community.”

He added: “The role of the IMO is to ensure a proper regulatory field within which seafarers can work – indeed not only seafarers but for every corner of the industry. However our future should not be restricted to that area alone, and our activities are expanding. “

“Our cooperation with the ILO to encourage developing countries to provide more support to the future of shipping will ultimately contribute to the sustainable development of shipping” Mr Sekimizu explained. “We need to generate interest from all relevant stakeholders in our endeavours to develop a sustainable, vibrant maritime sector. “