A REPORT prepared by non-profit group Human Rights at Sea examines the human rights performance of the three flag states of the United Arab Emirates, India and Malta.

The 2020 Flag States and Human Rights Report, completed by University of Bristol Law School graduate and postgraduate researchers, shows that more public policy and legislative development is needed by all three flag states to improve working conditions onboard vessels under their flag.

The report is part of a joint research project with the University of Bristol’s Human Rights Implementation Centre and Human Rights Law Clinic.

The open-source research involved additional outreach and direct engagement with all three flag administrations, though the office of the Director General Shipping, India, did not respond to any enquiries.


The report found there are varying mechanisms in place in each flag state to ensure a degree of monitoring and reporting of human rights issues that come to light. According to the Paris MoU, Malta is listed as a White flag State, while India is listed as a Grey flag State.

By contrast, the UAE is not party to the Paris or Tokyo MoUs. While the maritime authorities have the main responsibility of ensuring the effectiveness of the flag states’ monitoring and reporting systems, the report shows that these mechanisms are not always sufficiently implemented.

For instance, the protection of seafarers on board UAE-flagged vessels often relies on media, welfare or NGO organisation reporting, rather than via available and promulgated state-level complaint mechanisms.

While there are, thus far, no reported human rights violations for the Malta flag state which the authors are aware of, there is room for improvement in terms of clear reporting and complaints mechanisms to be made available for seafarers.

Professor Rachel Murray, director, HRIC, Bristol Law School, said, “This important report identifies gaps in protection and in so doing enables recommendations to be made for improvement.”

Dr Sofia Galani, academic lead and lecturer, HRIC and HRAS non-executive board member, said, “This is the third year of an excellent collaboration between the HRAS and the HRIC. Our students were given an amazing opportunity to conduct research on the protection of human rights onboard vessels and we hope that this report will contribute towards improving the lives and working conditions of persons onboard vessels”.

The report can be accessed here.