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Seafarers’ Rights and Safety: Joint IMO/ILO Conference on Work at Sea has much to deliver

Seafarers’ Rights and Safety: Joint IMO/ILO Conference on Work at Sea has much to deliver
Sue Terpilowski November 2, 2023

As the maritime world eagerly anticipates the Joint IMO/ILO Conference on Work at Sea scheduled for 13th November 2023 at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Headquarters in London, industry stakeholders are preparing to delve into critical discussions that will shape the future of work at sea. This gathering of maritime experts, government officials, and representatives from international organisations promises to be a pivotal event for the industry.

The Joint IMO/ILO Conference on Work at Sea is set to be a platform where the exchange of best practices, insights, and experiences takes centre stage. Its primary focus is to safeguard the rights of seafarers and fishers, identify gaps within the existing regulatory framework, and explore collaborative efforts among governments, industry players, intergovernmental organisations (IGOs), and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to enhance the international maritime legal framework.

With the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic still fresh in our minds, the conference’s first session, titled “Ensuring rights at sea,” will examine best practices for responsible ship management and highlight lessons learned from the pandemic. It’s an opportunity to underscore the importance of safeguarding seafarers’ rights in all circumstances, even during crises.

The maritime regulatory framework will be another crucial topic of discussion. The conference will assess key ILO and IMO Conventions concerning the fishing sector, weighing the opportunities and challenges they present. Experts will deliberate on the effectiveness of the current regulatory framework and enforcement mechanisms and identify areas requiring further attention.

Looking ahead, the conference’s “Perspectives for the Future” session will explore the role of seafarers in an increasingly digitalised and automated shipping industry. As technology transforms the maritime landscape, it’s imperative to understand how seafarers can navigate this new frontier and what measures are needed to ensure their well-being and safety.

Distinguished speakers at the opening session of the conference include Kitack Lim, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Gilbert F. Houngbo, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Guy Platten, Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), and Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). Their collective expertise and insights will undoubtedly set the tone for the conference and provide valuable perspectives on the industry’s challenges and opportunities.

The conference promises to generate recommendations to address gaps in the regulatory framework and integrate diversity and cultural considerations into future policies. As the industry grapples with evolving challenges and opportunities, it is paramount that all voices are heard and that seafarers’ rights and safety remain at the forefront of discussions. The sector will be closely scrutinising the outcome of the conference, looking for this to feed into the IMO Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping work on the revised STCW-F Convention and the draft new STCW-F Code, which has agreed to put forward for adoption at MSC 108 to be held in the first half of 2024.