LONDON - Charity Human Rights at Sea has partnered with global law firm Reed Smith to help tackle the growing problem known as seafarer abandonment; an issue that has seen cases rise dramatically over the last 12 months.

Seafarer abandonment happens when a shipowner abandons a ship and its crew, failing to cover the cost of repatriation or payment of wages. This often results in the crew being left to live on board the vessel in inhumane conditions, with no food, clean water, medical help or financial support – sometimes for years. 

Today, Human Rights at Sea and Reed Smith have published ‘Abandonment of Seafarers: Background, Legal Status, Remedies & Practical Advice’, a new and independent publication that comprehensively covers the pernicious issue of seafarer abandonment, which according to the International Labour Organization, there are more than 250 active cases around the world. 

The publication takes a holistic view of the issue with its context, background, the legal position, present examples, and it also provides key advice for seafarers.

To assist seafarers who maybe find themselves in difficulty, the drafting team have produced a draft alert letter to send to owners, operators, managers, flag state and Port State Control. Further, the publication includes a comprehensive list of support organisations with current contact details.

Legally reviewed by a pro-bono team of Reed Smith lawyers who volunteered a total of 272 hours, the information contained can be relied upon to be current and correct, with the aim for it to be widely and internationally disseminated for use across the maritime industry stakeholder groups.

Human Rights at Sea CEO, David Hammond, said: “Our charity is hugely grateful for the generous time, enthusiasm and commitment of the Reed Smith team in bringing together what is an informative, legally sound and very useful document primarily for seafarers as well as the wider maritime supply chain.”

Reed Smith admiralty manager Voirrey Blount, who is also an ex-seafarer, said: “We are delighted to have been involved in creating such an important document, and Reed Smith will continue to support Human Rights at Sea on this extremely worthy cause. The amount of volunteers for this case was overwhelming, and all the lawyers on the team feel extremely passionately about this subject and relished the opportunity to try and make a difference for those who need it the most.”

A cross-practice team from Reed Smith’s Transportation, Restructuring & Insolvency, and Global Commercial Disputes industry groups collaborated on the desk-based research project. The focus was on the seafarers’ legal rights and how they might assert them, taking into account the typical difficulties and pressures facing them.

The London-based team that worked pro bono on this matter included admiralty manager Voirrey Blount, partner Jody Wood, associates Athina Douni, Adam Świerczewski, Hyun Woo Kang, Nick Wright, and Katharina Schaub, paralegal Eleni Pilaviou, trainee solicitors Katie Varney and Arabella Murrison, and summer student Maud Charles.

The publication may be downloaded free from the Human Rights at Sea website.