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OHCHR, UN Global Compact & UN Working Group on BHR call on govts. & business to address COVID-driven humanitarian crisis of seafarers

"Press briefing notes on call to alleviate COVID crisis at sea", 6 October 2020

In all, some 400,000 people are currently stranded on vessels, and a similar number are prevented from returning to ships, either to earn their living or to return home, due to COVID-19 restrictions on travel and transit. In some cases people have been trapped on the same ship for 17 months or longer – far beyond the maximum 11 months permitted under international labour standards.

As well as people working on container ships and other commercial vessels essential to the global supply chain, similar conditions have been affecting people working in the fishing industry and on offshore oil and gas platforms. Such conditions are having a profoundly negative impact on basic human rights...

The responsibility to respect the human rights of seafarers, and put an end to the intolerable situation in which they find themselves, is not only limited to governments and the shipping sector. In line with the UN Guiding Principles, this responsibility also extends to the thousands of business enterprises that use the services of maritime freight transport... Business enterprises in all sectors, especially multinational firms and global brands, as well as financial institutions, should assess and act to remedy the human rights situation of seafarers in the context of COVID...

The joint statement calls on relevant business enterprises to identify the impacts of the pandemic, and of governments' response to it, on the human rights of seafarers and other marine personnel and to actively use their leverage to mitigate those impacts as much as possible. It calls on them to communicate this expectation to business partners and suppliers and exercise the leverage they have. It encourages them to urge governments to implement protocols and measures developed by UN agenciesto enable safe crew changes. And it also calls on such businesses to join forces with industry associations and unions to exert collective pressure.

The statement welcomes the efforts undertaken by some companies to address the unparalleled crisis facing maritime workers...