Seafarers will be exempted from criminal prosecution for helping rescue people at sea, after a successful campaign by Nautilus International, with assistance from Maritime UK and the UK Chamber of Shipping.
ore specifically, as Home Office Minister Tom Pursglove MP confirmed, a new amendment will
Put it beyond doubt that organisations and individuals who rescue those in distress will not be convicted for people smuggling offences
This amendment comes as the original draft of the Bill left open the possibility that seafarers may be convicted for saving the life of someone in distress.
Commenting on the development, Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said that “it is a substantial change and offers seafarers the required reassurance that they will not be criminalised for carrying out their professional duties and legal responsibilities under international conventions.”
In July 2021 Nautilus and the Chamber urged the UK government to ensure that crews of merchant ships would not be criminalised for rescuing distressed persons at sea and bringing them ashore in the UK.
In a response to the call, the Home Office Minister at the time Chris Phillip made assurances that the ‘Nationality and Borders Bill targets ruthless criminal gangs who put lives at risk by smuggling people across the Channel’.
Now, the Home Office confirmed these changes will be made in legislation, something Nautilus, Maritime UK and the Chamber had been calling for.
Until now, there has been great support of the campaign, with the International Transport Workers’ Federation stating:
This is fantastic news and a massive success. Seafarers standing up for humanitarian justice and dignity
A past survey by Nautilus International found that criminalisation is still a major worry for those working in the shipping industry. In fact, almost 90% of the respondents are worried about the risk of prosecution.
Furthermore, one in ten (15%) said that they have been directly involved in legal action. This has led them to persecution and required union support. Of these, 30% of the cases involved civil action and 20% involved maritime administrative action or criminal action.
In addition to rescuing people at sea, the COVID-19 pandemic has added a new scope in criminalization. Namely, due to the current situation, countries are maintaining strict regulations to minimize the spread of the virus. This has resulted in stringent checking at ports of ships, in order to maintain proper sanitization to minimize the spread.
#1 Fair investigation: The port state must ensure that any investigation that takes place within their jurisdiction is conducted fairly.
#2 Fair interview: The port state should ensure that after seafarers are interviewed, they should be allowed to re-embark or be repatriated without delays.
#3 No retaliatory action: The port state must make sure that no discriminatory or retaliatory measures are taken against seafarers due to their participation in investigations.
#4 Cooperation with agencies: The port state must cooperate with all interested parties, to provide seafarers’ representative organizations access to seafarers. Protecting human rights: The port state must preserve the human rights of seafarers at all times.
#5 Non discriminatory procedure: The port state must provide due process protections to all seafarers.
#6 Legal advice: The port state should ensure that seafarers have interpretation services, and are know their right to legal advice.
#7 Basis of investigation: The port state should make sure that seafarers are aware of the basis of the investigation is being conducted.
#8 Right to communication: The port state must ensure that seafarers can communicate privately with their family, welfare organizations, the ship-owner, trade unions, the Embassy, flag State, and legal representatives.