Guidelines on fair treatment of seafarers in the event of a maritime accident were adopted by the IMO's Legal Committee at its 91st session from 24 to 28 April 2006.
The Guidelines, developed by a Joint IMO/ILO Ad Hoc Expert Working Group on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the Event of a Maritime Accident, were also adopted by the ILO Governing Body, which met in June 2006.
The Guidelines recommend that they be observed in all instances where seafarers may be detained by public authorities in the event of a maritime accident.
Seafarers are recognized as a special category of worker, the guidelines state. Given the global nature of the shipping industry and the different jurisdictions with which they may be brought into contact, they need special protection, especially in relation to contact with public authorities. The objective of the Guidelines is to ensure that seafarers are treated fairly following a maritime accident and during any investigation and detention by public authorities and that detention is for no longer than necessary.
The Guidelines give advice on steps to be taken by all those who may be involved following an incident: the port or coastal State, flag State, the seafarer's State, the shipowner and seafarers themselves. The emphasis is on co-operation and communication between those involved and in ensuring that no discriminatory or retaliatory measures are taken against seafarers because of their participation in investigations. The Guidelines say that all necessary measures should be taken to ensure the fair treatment of seafarers.
The Joint IMO/ILO Ad Hoc Expert Working Group on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the Event of a Maritime Accident was established in 2005 to work on the development of appropriate guidelines for endorsement by IMO and ILO. A resolution prepared by the Group and subsequently adopted jointly by the IMO Assembly and the ILO Governing Body last December (A.987(24)) states that both ILO and IMO are seriously concerned about the need to ensure the fair treatment of seafarers in view of the growing use of criminal proceedings against seafarers after a maritime accident. The resolution recognises the urgency of adopting Guidelines as a matter of priority and, to this end, requested the Group to finalise its work expeditiously. The Group completed this task in March 2006.
Member Governments are invited, in the resolution, to implement the Guidelines as from 1 July 2006.
The Legal Committee is maintaining oversight over the implementaion of the guidelines to consider revisions that may seem necessary in light of grievances.