The Criminalisation of Seafarers

Letter to High Commission of India - the Seaman Guard Ohio case.

Seafarers all around the world often face being arrested or held in prison after an incident or accident at sea or during their stay in port.

The Mission to Seafarers helps crews who find themselves involved with the authorities on a range of issues including criminal actions post groundings, shipwreck, collision, and, more recently, for anti-piracy security ship personnel who can face arms  and other charges.

BIMCO – the world’s leading international shipping association - has issued a notice on their website on the issue of fair treatment of seafarers: “BIMCO promotes fair treatment of seafarers in all respects and will continue to advocate against the increasingly severe liability regimes, including presumption of guilt rather than innocence of seafarers and, in particular, the introduction of strict criminal liability for oil pollution or other severe environmental incidents. BIMCO is also strongly opposed to, and intervenes in response to, criminalisation of seafarers in terms of enactment of legislation that makes an act illegal retroactively. Unfair treatment cases range from high-profile incidents that receive a lot of public and political attention to everyday problems related to the attitude of certain port state control officials towards ships’ crew and the abandonment of seafarers. In many cases, the crew has done nothing wrong and, in relation to environmental pollution and other incidents, often tried to mitigate their effects. Only very few cases would appear to involve intentional or grossly negligent behaviour of seafarers. “

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