The Human Rights Due Diligence Tool has been launched by the UN. This is a joint initiative of the UN Global Compact, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the ILO and the IMO.
COVID-19 has thrust seafarers to the forefront of the shipping industry as more and more seafarers end up at risk of being deprived of their fundamental human rights, often because of limitations imposed by port States who will not allow crew changes to occur in their ports. It is estimated that because of government-imposed global travel restrictions over 300,000 seafarers are currently stranded on board vessels around the world.
The Tool seeks to encapsulate the best practices for businesses who wish to ensure they are acting responsibly and are recognizing their human rights responsibilities to seafarers. Some practices, such as "no crew change clauses" are viewed by the initiative as irresponsible practices that jeopardize seafarers' rights - something both owners and charters should consider when seeking to maintain responsible business practices that the consumer often demands.
It can be hoped that the due diligence of owners, charterers and cargo interests with regards to seafarers rights will continue even after the COVID-19 crisis in the form of things such as global initiatives like the Neptune Declaration, which is a global call to action addressing the crew change issue. Fatigued crew who have over run on their contract are not only a risk to themselves but also to the ship and the cargo on board due to decreased abilities to concentrate, concerns about family at home, and sheer exhaustion - it is in the interest of all parties to continue to work to prevent human rights violations at sea.