LONDON-BASED advocacy group Human Rights at Sea has issued a new independent briefing note and report on the state of play for the incorporation of business and human rights policies and practices throughout the shipping industry.

Based on seven years of ongoing review and monitoring of how collective and individual efforts within the sector have been developing in response to the 2011 UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the report is stark in its assessment. It notes a general lack of action and continued collective malaise towards the area.

The report acknowledges individual company efforts to embed the guiding principles and ensure betterment and protection of individual’s fundamental rights while working at sea, but the few good examples do not yet represent a majority response.

“Nonetheless, it is clear that the issue is not a collective priority and is one which is rarely championed to any depth or degree by industry bodies, while membership associations are only now starting to wake up to the environmental, social and governance focus to evaluate how far advanced companies are with their sustainability actions,” David Hammond from Human Rights at Sea said.


“Over the last seven years there has been little concerted and collaborative effort by the shipping industry to embed the concept, develop unified policies, drive effective remedy and demonstrate public accountability in the field of business and human rights.

“This has been exacerbated by too much corporate social responsibility talk in the margins followed by too little action, in particular from leading membership bodies,” Mr Hammond said.

“This has left individual operators who are focused on delivering positive social change to make the necessary internal adjustments without over-arching policy direction, guidance and senior industry support.”

The report found that while the corporate responsibility to respect human rights has garnered much attention, the maritime environment poses a very high risk for abuses of human rights at sea.

“Compounded by a current lack of collective unity and agreed policy from the top down on the subject matter, business and human rights, and in particular the human rights piece, remains marginalised and not taken seriously in the commercial context,” the report found.