It’s a sad fact that mariners who vanish following a major sea mishap, fall overboard or get kidnapped by pirates are all too soon forgotten. But now The Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) project is developing an international register of missing seafarers, including those who had been working on board fishing vessels. This historic undertaking is coming to fruition thanks to a grant from the Seafarers UK charity. But we do think it deserves the support of the entire world community.

“The global scale of the issue is unknown,” says HRAS founder and UK barrister David Hammond. “The new database will seek to quantify the issue by providing evidence of missing seafarers to inform international maritime bodies, governments and the UN.” He has expressed the hope that the project will be “an attractive, cost-effective and strategically important human rights based platform”.

The register could prove useful in the case of missing seafarers who may be legally presumed dead to enable the families to collect the death benefits. Explains Mr Hammond: “Recording of such data, if submitted through the reporting form process and verified after moderation should go to both discovering and quantifying the scale of loss of seafarers and fishermen, and potentially assist insurers with their decision-making process if the seafarer is not found or a body is not recovered. Such a decision will, however, be solely for the insurers and not for HRAS.”

It may well be that the register of missing seafarers would lead to only a few ever being found. But the very attempt to quantify these maritime desaparecidos is significant. Perchance it would result in a better appreciation of the hardships and dangers constantly faced by seafarers and fishermen. And perchance this would encourage greater compassion for all those who toil at sea — and a genuine respect for their rights. ~Barista Uno


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