Law firm HFW has advised on the Geneva Declaration designed to define and defend the human rights of the global maritime population and those crossing the world’s oceans and seas.

It carried out a review of the declaration on behalf of UK-based NGO Human Rights at Sea (HRAS), which produced the proposed international convention following three years of research and drafting by a team of experts in public, international, humanitarian and refugee law. 

The declaration targets human rights abuses stemming from piracy, criminal violence, breaches of maritime labour rights, seafarer abandonment, slavery, trafficking, child labour, and failures in equality and inclusion.

It applies to seafarers, fishers, workers in offshore oil and gas, and the tourism industry and extends to passengers, scientists, state officials on naval and coast guard vessels, migrants and refugees, and people involved in unlawful activities.

The declaration is structured around the understanding that the protection of human rights at sea rests on four fundamental principles: 

  • Human rights at sea are universal; they apply at sea, as they do on land 
  • All persons at sea, without any distinction, are entitled to their human rights 
  • There are no maritime specific reasons for denying human rights at sea 
  • All human rights established under both treaty and customary international law must be respected at sea 

Alex Kemp, partner at the law firm, said: “HFW is incredibly proud to have assisted HRAS on this vitally important issue. The Geneva Declaration is a major milestone in the fight to end human rights abuses at sea. We would encourage organisations around the world to support the declaration in any way that they can, so that the lives of seafarers, who play such a crucial role to everyone’s day-to-day lives, are protected by law.”

To find out more about the declaration, visit: