Twenty-four percent of ship masters have faced criminal charges for incidents involving their work, according to a survey conducted by Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI), a legal research group.
The results were reported in the most recent edition of Nautilus Telegraph, the magazine of the UK-Dutch officers’ union. “That’s almost one in four, and it’s probably one of the highest rates of criminalization in any profession,” Nautilus says.
SRI based its findings on a survey of almost 3,500 seafarers of 68 nationalities. “Criminalization of the maritime profession is not just an incidental issue, as evidenced by these survey results,” Nautilus points out. “It is a problem on an immense scale throughout the world, and it is on the rise.”
Among unlicensed seafarers, almost 10 percent said they had faced criminal charges related to their jobs. Of that number, 90 percent reported that they had not been provided with legal representation by the authorities. Ninety-one percent said they had not been given needed interpretation services. What’s more, 89 percent of the original 10 percent said that no one had explained their rights to them, which might explain why 46 percent said they would be reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement officials in the future for fear of self-incrimination.
Eighty percent of seafarers who faced criminal charges said they had been intimidated or threatened. Overall, more than four out of five seafarers who faced criminal charges said they felt that they had not been treated fairly.
SRI conducted additional research to put the results into perspective, reviewing the reports of all criminal charges against professional mariners as published in Lloyd’s List, TradeWinds and Fairplay for the 12-year period from 2000 to 2011.
The analysis showed that the criminalization trend is on the rise. There were 415 reports of “crimes” involving 1,580 seafarers during this period. The number of incidents deemed by authorities to be “crimes,” as well as the number of seafarers detained, increased every year during the period surveyed.
Nautilus is calling on world governments to take action. “We hope that the results of this survey will provide momentum for increased efforts to ensure fair treatment of seafarers, whether innocent or guilty of a criminal charge,” said SRI Executive Director Deirdre Fitzpatrick, “and that from this survey, the faces and voices of the seafarers will be seen clearly and heard loudly.”
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