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:
Emerging maritime challenges were at the forefront of discussions at the 11th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Inter-Sessional Meeting (ISM) on Maritime Security held in Da Nang, Viet Nam, on 14-15 March. Participants had the opportunity to exchange views on regional maritime issues, review progress of their maritime security work plan, and discuss proposed activities over the coming year.
IMO took the opportunity to update ARF members on IMO’s work in Asia and told senior maritime officials of potential future technical cooperation projects in the region. IMO also talked about improving the implementation, among ASEAN members, of maritime security measures, including the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS).
It was reported by IMO on 13 March that a new set of publicly-available guidelines for monitoring plastics and microplastics in the oceans will help harmonize how scientists and others assess the scale of the marine plastic litter problem.
These guidelines* for the monitoring and assessment of plastic litter and microplastics in the ocean have been published by the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), a body that advises the United Nations system on the scientific aspects of marine environmental protection.
Guidelines cover what to sample, how to sample it and how to record and assess plastics in the oceans and on the shoreline, including establishing baseline surveys. They include recommendations, advice and practical guidance, for establishing programmes to monitor and assess the distribution and abundance of plastic litter, also referred to as plastic debris, in the ocean.