Crew Welfare at RightShip

There is an urgent need to tackle the systemic challenges creating human rights and labour rights risks for seafarers worldwide. Seafarers have a right to a workplace where their rights are respected, that is safe and secure, where they have fair terms of employment that are delivered through decent living and working conditions, fair wages and social protection covering medical, employment and retirement issues.   

Ensuring that seafarers’ rights are respected is a critical element of the shipping industry’s social responsibility journey, underpinned by the need for healthy, safe and secure work environments, rewarding careers, as well as a diverse and inclusive maritime workforce. Improving attention to seafarers’ rights can also provide added benefits such as reducing risks of incidents and undesirable ship culture that could undermine productivity and staff retention. 


Current issues with crew welfare in the maritime industry 

Protecting and respecting seafarers’ rights was thrust into the public spotlight in 2020 when 400,000+ seafarers were stranded at sea due to crew change restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alongside this increased public awareness of the role of seafarers and the need to support them, there is a growing demand from consumers, investors, business partners, civil society and governments for more transparent and sustainable supply chains that address social concerns including human and labour rights alongside environmental concerns. 


Areas for improvement in crew welfare  

Presently, there is no consistent guidance for how to manage long-term, systemic risks to seafarers’ rights. The approach taken varies across the diversity of maritime sectors, and overall, there is low awareness of seafarers’ rights throughout the industry. And the limited action which has been taken is often reactive rather than proactive, and at the same time punitive rather than focused on continual improvement. This is all compounded by limited available data on welfare commitments during voyages.  

Areas for improvement include:


Responses to violations take place after crew suffering has already occurred, often over a period of many months or years. This leaves both crew and charterers exposed. 


Focus is entirely on penalising those who violate MLC requirements and basic human rights. There is no existing measure to effectively reward the many instances of positive action being taken within the industry. 


Action on seafarers’ welfare and human rights is limited by the availability of credible data on MLC violations. Primarily received via Port State Control detention reports or high-profile events captured in the maritime press. 

Code of Conduct and Self-Assessment Tool 

Prior to the Covid-19 crew change crisis, the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) and the Institute for Human Rights & Business (IHRB), in collaboration with the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, formed a working group with a number of SSI members to research and address human and labour rights risks throughout the maritime supply chain.  

This resulted in the joint development of an industry Code of Conduct and Self-Assessment Tool, based on international labour and human rights standards, that would enable organisations across the sector to enhance their commitments and approaches to respecting seafarers’ rights.   

You can download the Code of Conduct here.

Ready to get started? Shipowners and managers can start their Self-Assessment today

form-landing-crew-welfareShowcase your commitment to seafarers by completing the Crew Welfare Self-Assessment, for DOC holders