Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
The recent increase in migrant crossings from France to England across one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, the English Channel, has prompted calls within the UK to increase sea patrols and prevent crossings. This was reported by Human Rights at Sea on 28 December.
Nonetheless, the issue should not be unexpected for the UK Border Force as the inevitability of exploitation of those fleeing war-torn countries by criminal gangs and human traffickers is not exclusive to North African and southern European States. The position taken by the Italian authorities whereby the alleged presence of vessels capable of rescue being viewed as an attraction to migrants is now a fear expressed by UK authorities in recent days.
A question asked at the end of 2018 was: Are UK authorities ready to receive increasing numbers of migrants making the crossing, and have they taken all necessary precautions to protect the rights of those rescued at sea?
Earlier in 2018 Felicity Landon reported in Port Strategy on the issue of migrants afloat when she wrote an article titled: A Safe Haven Without Exception relating to the preparedness of ports for the reception of migrants.
Her article may be read here: https://www.portstrategy.com/news101/port-operations/port-services/A-safe-haven-without-exception
David Hammond, founder and trustee of the charity Human Rights at Sea, commented at the time: ‘The obligation for ports is to uphold human rights at every stage and ensure the safety of all people in the port, including port workers and passengers passing through.
‘This issue cuts across fundamental human rights. People who are rescued at sea are entitled to all the same human rights protection as those who rescue them and those who run the port. They are not second or third-class citizens.’
A Rescue at Sea guide produced by the IMO, the ICS and the UNHCR in 2015 and still available focuses on the principles and practice relating to refugees and migrants.
It states: ‘Governments have to co-ordinate and co-operate to ensure that masters of ships providing assistance by embarking persons in distress at sea are released from their obligations with minimum further deviation from the ship’s intended voyage, and have to arrange disembarkation as soon as reasonably practicable.’
A copy may be seen here:
Piracy increased on the world’s seas in 2018, with a marked rise in attacks against ships and crews around West Africa, the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) latest annual piracy report reveals. The document was issued jointly in London and Kuala Lumpur on 16 January.
Worldwide, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) recorded 201 incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery in 2018, up from 180 in 2017.
The Gulf of Guinea remains increasingly dangerous for seafarers. Reports of attacks in waters between the Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo more than doubled in 2018, accounting for all six hijackings worldwide, 13 of the 18 ships fired upon, 130 of the 141 hostages taken globally, and 78 of 83 seafarers kidnapped for ransom.
The region saw a significant new spike in violence in the last quarter of 2018. Vessels have been boarded by pirates well outside territorial waters, with crew kidnapped and taken into Nigeria where they are held for ransom.
On 16 January the Danish Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs launched a new sectoral strategy for the shipping industry. This strategy is a part of the Danish government’s national strategy for cyber and information security.
The strategy contains a number of initiatives aimed at strengthening IT security and preventing cyber threats in the maritime sector.
The objective of the strategy is to ensure that safety in Danish waters and on board Danish ships is not compromised by cyber attacks.
The responsibility for cyber and information security in the maritime sector lies with the Danish Maritime Authority. The new strategy covers navigational safety in Danish waters and safety on board Danish ships, including systems and software for operation, propulsion and navigation of the ship.