Human Rights in the Shipping Industry - from Shipyard to Scrapyard

Meeting Report, 04 June 2019

By Frances House, Deputy Chief Executive, IHRB

80% of physical global trade is transported by sea. To date, the maritime industry has focused on sustainability from a predominantly environmental perspective, with correspondingly little attention paid to human rights risks and operational responsibilities. Yet human rights issues are germane across the entire lifecycle of a ship – from design, finance and ordering, through building and operation, to breaking/recycling. There are widely documented cases of egregious abuses occurring within the sector, and as yet, no overarching human rights framework to support better due diligence from throughout a ship's lifecycle. 

On 2nd May 2019, in London, IHRB, the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR), the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, Anglo American and Maersk co-hosted a roundtable: Human Rights in the Shipping Industry - from Shipyard to Scrapyard. The event explored areas of risk and responsibility in ensuring human rights are part of everyday business right across the ship lifecycle. The roundtable was attended by representatives from shipping companies, their business customers, investors, lawyers and civil society organisations engaging with the maritime industry.

This meeting report summarises the main discussion points and the next steps that were identified. 

IHRB, DIHR and Rafto have also created a four-page briefing document outlining the salient human rights risks and good practice steps that run across the lifecycle of a ship. 

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