A new center for the advancement of the rights of seamen across the world was launched last week in London.  According to a press release by Seafarers Rights International, the center is dedicated to the use of high-level research and analysis to address concerns facing seamen across the globe, and to advance the cause of their safety.  The center’s main function will be to conduct research into topics that affect seaman safety, conduct education programs to raise awareness about seamen’s rights, and provide legal training aimed at protecting these rights.

The center has been established through a grant from the ITF Seafarers Trust, and will be managed by an advisory board that consists of experts both from the shipping industry, as well the maritime law community.  Right now, there is a severe need for an international forum to address issues of safety and other subjects related to maritime transport.  We need an international resource for seamen around the world.

2010 is the International Year of the Seafarer, and this is the right time to launch an effort like this.  It’s an initiative that would be supported by any maritime lawyer.  We need more education to make seamen aware of their rights under the law.  Under US maritime law, for instance, we have a special set of laws called the Jones Act that are meant to protect seamen injured on vessels that qualify as vessels under the Act.  These men are protected from financial hardship and difficulty after an injury.  The laws allow for maintenance and cure benefits, and personal injury damages.  Yet, as maritime attorneys, we know that most seamen continue to remain unclear about their rights under the Jones Act.

Considering that an injury at sea can effectively end a maritime worker’s employment, if important that we support all initiatives to make seamen aware of their rights not only during work, but also after an injury.