When does the level of deficiencies on ships cross the threshold from being a civil wrong to a criminal offence?
This question is one that the shipping industry, port state authorities and law enforcement agencies must seriously consider when it comes to the welfare of seafarers, says Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) port chaplain Reverend Roger Stone.
Roger, who is AoS port chaplain for the south coast ports in England, says he had seen deficiencies on board ships that clearly contravene health and safety regulations as well as the human and statutory rights of the crew.
Some examples Roger had come across during his ship visits include galleys without food or drinking water, food unfit for human consumption, filthy shower and toilet areas, galleys with insect infestation, crew being forced to work without sufficient rest hours, he told a conference on Modern Slavery in Portsmouth on February 10.
Such conditions though rare in the UK are not insignificant.
Currently says Roger, port state authorities had the power to detain a ship for deficiencies.
“But surely there must be a point when what is a civil offence becomes a criminal one, especially in cases where abuse and modern slavery is suspected,” said Roger.
He added, “It is therefore so important if someone sees something wrong, that they don’t keep it to themselves but share information with the authorities so that appropriate action can be taken without delay; so any deficiencies can be remedied and if there is anybody in trouble they can be helped immediately and not just put on a record or a database for next time.”
AoS works closely with Kevin Hyland, the UK Government’s Anti-Slavery Commissioner, and his office, to help seafarers suspected of being subjected to modern slavery.
AoS has a presence in about 50 ports in the UK with 14 ports chaplains supporting seafarers’ welfare needs.
In 2015, our port chaplains in the UK assisted 196,420 seafarers and visited 9,821 ships. This included 6,229 ships where seafarers were offered welfare assistance.
More details can be found in our 2015 Annual Review.