September 23, 2010
Seafarers' Rights International Center is launched
A new Seafarers' Rights International Center has been launched. Its Executive Director is lawyer Deirdre Fitzpatrick. Ms. Fitzpatrick did, in fact, write the book on Seafarers' Rights -- more exactly she is co-editor of the 690 page Seafarer's Rights published by Oxford University Press in 2005, at which time she was a legal officer with the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF).
An international Advisory Board has been established and the Center's stakeholders will include seafarers, lawyers and other advisers, non-governmental organizations, trade unions, welfare organizations and campaigners, students and academics, shipowners and others in the shipping industry, as well as governments.
According to a press release, Seafarers' Rights International will use high level research and analysis to raise awareness of the legal concerns of seafarers, and will work to improve the protection of seafarers in national and international laws.
Although the center is described as "an independent forum dedicated to advancing seafarers' interests," Ms. Fitzpatrick's prior employment is not its sole ITF link. it is located in ITF's London offices, with initial funding coming from the ITF's Seafarers' Trust.
David Cockroft, General Secretary of the ITF said: "The success of an independent body such as Seafarers' Rights International is crucial to identifying and tackling the rights of seafarers and that is of interest to all industry stakeholders including the ITF."
Mr. Cockroft is a member of the International Advisory Board, as is David Heindel, the Secretary Treasurer of Seafarers' International Union (SIU) of North America, AFL-CIO.
A board member who may be all too familiar to some shipowners is Richard J Dodson, an Attorney at Law and founding and senior partner of the law firm Dodson, Hooks & Frederick, APLC, in Baton Rouge, La. According to its website, the "partners of the firm have assisted thousands of clients in recovering millions of dollars from shipping companies around the world who were negligent in injuring their loyal workers or who have refused to pay earned wages to seamen when wages were due. The Jones Act provides liberal recovery standards for injured offshore workers and Dodson Hooks & Frederick, APLC specializes in recovery under the Act."
Launching Seafarers' Rights International, Ms. Fitzpatrick said: "Seafarers work in often hazardous conditions. As mobile workers they are highly vulnerable to ill treatment, exploitation, abuse and injustice. They operate within and across different national jurisdictions and are subject to different international and national laws. In some cases, there may be doubt as to what if any law is applicable or enforceable.
"Seafarers' Rights International will be dedicated to advancing seafarers' rights and interests worldwide. Currently there is no established forum for research and dissemination of ideas and information regarding employment law in the area of international maritime transport. Seafarers' Rights International will work to fill this gap. It will be an international resource for seafarers and for all stakeholders with a genuine concern for the protection of seafarers."