Reports : 2020 Flag States and Human Rights Report

This year, the project focused on three flag States, the UAE, India and Malta

London, UK. Human Rights at Sea has today published the 2020 Flag States and Human Rights Report: An evaluation of Flag State Practice in Monitoring, Reporting and Enforcing Human Rights Obligations on board Vessels.

The report has been prepared by University of Bristol (UK) Law School graduate and postgraduate researchers in partnership with Human Rights at Sea, as part of an established year-on-year joint research project with the University of Bristol’s Human Rights Implementation Centre and Human Rights Law Clinic.

This year, the project focused on three flag States, the UAE, India and Malta, whose public positions were independently reviewed and commented on in reference to the under-explored issue of flag State practice in respect to national and international human rights obligations.

The aim of the project was to reveal deficiencies in human rights protections and offer informed recommendations.

It is hoped that with such independent insight and a better understanding of how different flag States comply with their international human rights obligations, improved flag State assessments, and eventually amended flag State practices with transparent implementation, will come into force.

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.

Report’s Conclusions

“There are varying highlighted 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.

This is evidenced by the apparent failure of the UAE to meet the necessary requirements of the Paris or Tokyo MoU lists which suggests that more regular vessel inspections are needed.

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.”

“India’s performance has improved with each year by adopting appropriate policy measures in order to accomplish their aims of improving their reputation.

However, while there is a clear political willingness to do better, it is publicly difficult to identify the initiatives and mechanisms put in place to actually improve India’s records on reported human rights abuses at sea.

The non-payment of wages and abandonment of seafarers are clearly the most pressing issues.”

“In sum, more public policy and legislative development is needed by all three flag States to better improve their working conditions on board vessels under their flag, and to ensure more effective transparent reporting and monitoring mechanisms are put in place. MoU evaluations reflect compliance with human rights obligations to a limited extent. Thus, the monitoring and protection of human rights should become a priority and part of flag State day-to-day business.”


Professor Rachel Murray, Director, Human Rights Implementation Centre, Bristol Law School, said: “The HRIC is delighted to have worked on this report with Human Rights at Sea and for the opportunity for our student Human Rights Law Clinic to be part of this project. 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, Human Rights Implementation Centre and Human Rights at Sea Non-Executive Board member, commented: “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 on board vessels and we hope that this report will contribute towards improving the lives and working conditions of persons on board vessels”.

David Hammond, CEO, Human Rights at Sea said: “Following another year of detailed research on the issue of flag State responsibilities relating to established international human rights instruments, we are delighted with the delivery of this third report undertaken in partnership with the Human Rights Implementation Centre. This expands on our previous two reports exposing gaps in flag State policy, profiling, implementation and public positioning on the issue of human rights.”

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