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September 30, 2023

Seafarers will not be criminalized for rescuing people at sea

By Priti Naik

Accomplishing a successful campaign by Nautilus International by attaining assistance from Maritime UK and the UK Chamber of Shipping, the seafarers will be exempted from criminal prosecution for helping rescue people at the sea. This comes after the Nautilus and the Chamber in July 2021, urged the UK government to exempt crew members of merchant ships from being criminalized for rescuing distressed people at the sea and bring them ashore.

Confirming the same, Home Office Minister Tom Pursglove MP said that the amendment will put it beyond doubt that the organization and the individuals who rescue those in distress will not be convicted for people smuggling offences. This amendment comes as the original draft of the Bill left open the possibility that seafarers may be convicted for saving the life of someone in distress.

Nautilus General Secretary Mark Dickison said that this is a considerable change and also reassures the seafarers that they will not be criminalized for carrying out their professional duties and legal responsibilities under international conventions. The Home Office Minister Chris Phillips made assurances stating that the Nationality and Borders Bill targets ruthless criminal gangs who put lives at risk by smuggling people across the Channel.

The Home Office also assured that these changes will be made in legislation which was been asked by the Nautilus, Maritime UK and the Chamber since a long time. The International Transport Workers’ Federation showed tremendous support to the campaign and stated that the new amendment is a massive success especially for the seafarers who stand up for humanitarian justice and dignity.

In a survey by Nautilus International, it was found that criminalization was a major worry for those people working in the shipping industry. Almost 90% of the responders were worried about the risk of prosecution. One in ten said that they were directly involved in legal action which led them to persecution and required union support. Of these, 30% of the cases involved civil action and 20% involved maritime administrative action or criminal action. In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic has added a new scope in criminalization while rescuing people at the sea. Due to current situation, countries are maintaining strict regulations to minimize the spread of the virus. This has resulted in stringent checking at ports of ship, in order to maintain proper sanitization to minimize the spread.

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