Nautilus surveyed a total of of 612 seafarers, who stated that they did not feel safe from criminalization anywhere in the world. This is a change from the 2010 survey, when member concerns centred around Northern America, Europe and Africa. Crime comes in many forms, from piracy or robbery while a vessel is at anchor, to the withholding of wages by unscrupulous operators and theft of personal goods.


In addition, pollution is also becoming more and more important for seafarers. In fact, it was identified as the biggest issue that respondents believed they could be criminalised for. The majority of respondents stated that they believe the public and political reaction to a spill affects the likelihood of being treated unfairly, with many noting that they fear of being held criminally responsible for circumstances which they could not control.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Deborah Layde Grants Director at Seafarers UK, mentioned:

This is very worrying. How much money do we spend on industry recruitment vs how much tackling barriers to entry/root causes

As a prime example, respondents highlighted the case of the Prestige tanker, which sank in 2002, polluting the Spanish coastline. As Nautilus says, the public and media outcry, as well as the desire to hold someone to account, led to the ship’s master being convicted and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for recklessness leading to catastrophic environmental damage 14 years later. The union adds, that in spite of concerns regarding the judicial process, the belated trial proceeded.

For his part, Mark Dickinson, general secretary of Nautilus International, added that many times seafarers find themselves in situations that would not happen in the vast majority of other professions. He explained nonetheless, that the number of prosecutions in the industry remains relatively low. Despite this fact however, he said that:

Even minor brushes with the law can be quite frightening, especially as they often occur a long way from home, with no support