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.
On 7 April the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) reported that multipurpose coastguard support via a remotely piloted surveillance system (RPAS) services had been provided at the request of the Romanian Border Police.
(See illustrations here from EMSA / Romanian authorities ©)
The RPAS system will support a number of authorities in Black Sea waters including the Romanian Naval Authority and National Agency for Fishing and Aquaculture.
It is understood that the mid-sized RPAS craft can stay in the air for up to seven hours and has a range of up to 200km. It is equipped with a camera capable of day and night operations, a sea surface scanner, a distress beacon detector and a sensor that can detect vessel positions. It can be used for a range of activities, including border control, monitoring naval traffic, search and rescue, and environmental protection. Data from the RPAS can be recorded and transferred to the EMSA RPAS data centre in real time, and then made immediately available to national authorities.
EMSA reported that the service has been allocated for six months, and will also contribute to specific missions conducted by the Romanian Border Police within the Multipurpose Maritime Operation 2021 in the Black Sea, in coordination with the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), EMSA and the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA).
RPAS integration was carried out in cooperation with the Romanian Air Force and the Romanian Air Traffic Control Service (ROMATSA), which provided specialised support.
We have been informed that later this year EMSA will add a second RPAS to the region (a light quadcopter), which will operate from the Romanian patrol vessel Stefan Cel Mare.
RPAS services, offered free to all EU Member States by EMSA, have been developed to assist in maritime surveillance operations, in support of authorities involved in coastguard functions, and can operate in all seas surrounding the European Union. RPAS services can provide support to traditional coastguard functions, including search and rescue, maritime surveillance and pollution prevention and response. The Black Sea service is an important part of EMSA’s regional RPAS strategy, which allows multiple coast guard functions in EU Member States to be supported by one or more RPAS services. Further expansion of RPAS regionally is planned in 2021 and 2022.
The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) is a decentralised agency of the EU, based in Lisbon, Portugal. EMSA serves the EU’s maritime interests for a safe, secure, green and competitive maritime sector through support for pollution prevention and response, maritime surveillance, safety and security, digitalisation and the provision of integrated maritime services, and technical assistance.
A wide-ranging set of guidance has been issued to help enterprises using shipping services to protect the human rights of seafarers, as hundreds of thousands are still stranded on ships due to Covid-19 imposed travel restrictions.
Made public early in May the Human Rights Due Diligence Tool is a joint initiative of the UN Global Compact (UNGC), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights), the ILO and the IMO.
The Due Diligence Tool for cargo owners and charterers has been issued amid concerns that the number of crew stranded at sea by Covid-19 restrictions could surge from the current level of 200,000, potentially returning to the peak of 400,000 seafarers at the height of the crew change crisis in September 2020. UN agencies hope the new guidance will help ensure that the working conditions and human rights of seafarers are respected and comply with international standards.
The new guidance aims to ensure that seafarers have their rights safeguarded in areas such as physical and mental health, access to family life and freedom of movement.
While recognizing the importance of the maritime industry in transporting more than 80% of global trade goods, UN agencies have expressed concern at reports of seafarers working beyond the eleven-month maximum period of service on board set out by the ILO Maritime Labour Convention (MLC)1.
Ship owners and seafarers’ representatives have asked the UN to establish an inter-agency task force to examine the implementation and practical application of the MLC, 2006 during the pandemic, including its impact on seafarers’ fundamental rights and on the shipping industry. This was reported by the ITF on 6 May.
The crew change crisis peaked at over 400,000 seafarers trapped on ships working beyond their contracts because of local Covid-19 restrictions and the failure of some governments to cooperate and coordinate to address the crisis.
As at the date of the statement it was understood that the number of seafarers still stranded is around 200,000 and is on the rise again as authorities respond to new variants and explosions in cases like the devastating second wave currently tearing through India.
It is the ITF’s view that while some governments have responded well, designating seafarers as key workers and facilitating their travel, too many are sitting idly by while ships’ crews are unable to get home in a situation that is tantamount to forced labour. Urgent action is needed.