LONDON – A pro bono team at global law firm Reed Smith has advised on the Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea, a landmark publication protecting the human rights of all people living, working, and crossing the sea.

Related Professionals: James Scott Nick Wright

container ship in the harbour Waltershof

The Declaration, put together by the charity Human Rights at Sea, provides guidance for authorities of port states, coastal states, flag states, and all other stakeholders interested in expanding human rights protections and supporting the vision to end human rights abuses at sea.

The publication is a legal instrument targeting human rights abuses dominant at sea, including those stemming from piracy, slavery, seafarer abandonment, trafficking, child labour, and failures in equality and inclusion.

The launch of the Declaration on 1 March 2022 follows three years of research and drafting by a team of experts in public, international, humanitarian, and refugee law. The Declaration has four fundamental principles: 

  1. Human rights at sea are universal; they apply at sea, as they do on land.
  2. All persons at sea, without any distinction, are entitled to their human rights.
  3. There are no maritime specific reasons for denying human rights at sea.
  4. All human rights established under both treaty and customary international law must be respected at sea.

“We believe that the committee is right to draw attention to the current gaps that exist in human rights protections and enforcements at sea” said David Hammond, Human Rights at Sea CEO. He continues, “The adoption of the Geneva Declaration will close this gap and bring clarity to the legal situation, and protection to the 30 million people at sea.”

Jody Wood, a partner within the Transportation Industry Group at Reed Smith, said: “We are delighted to continue supporting this outstanding charity on this extremely worthy cause. The Geneva Declaration is the latest piece of work on which we have collaborated with Human Rights at Sea, all with an aim of ensuring that those at sea are treated with the same human rights as those on land.

A cross-practice team from Reed Smith’s Transportation Industry Group and Global Commercial Disputes group collaborated on the desk-based research project. The focus was on reviewing the Declaration from a commercial and legal perspective.

The London-based team that worked pro bono on this matter included James Scott, Nick Wright, Lisa Meller, Hyun Woo Kang, Athina Douni, Katie Varney and Arabella Murrison.

The Declaration has been published in English, Arabic, French, and Mandarin, with more translations to follow. Review the Geneva Declaration on the Human Rights at Sea website.