Global, sector-focused law firm HFW advised on a new Geneva Declaration designed to define and defend the human rights of the global maritime population and those crossing the world’s oceans and seas.

HFW 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 firm’s team was led by Alex Kemp in London and also included Sarah Chua in Singapore.

Alex Kemp, Partner, HFW:

“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.”

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:

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

David Hammond, CEO, HRAS:

“We are incredibly grateful to the drafting team and the law firms who have supported the development of the Declaration. This is the first time that the human rights of all people at sea have been codified in one document. For far too long, the sea has been a space where those who want to abuse the human rights of people are allowed to do so freely and without consequence. The Declaration will help to stop that. We look forward to advocating for its adoption by states over the coming months.”

To find out more about the Declaration, visit:

HFW is widely recognised as the world’s leading shipping and maritime law firm. It has over 200 specialist shipping lawyers and more than a dozen mariners across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific, advising clients on the full range of dry shipping, admiralty and crisis management, and transactional matters.

The firm recently launched in Denmark with the hire of market leading shipping lawyer Jens Mathiasen, which followed the arrival of dual-qualified solicitor-Master Mariner Mark Myles in Singapore and senior London partner Paolo Ghirardani, who was head of the global Marine and International Trade practice at Stephenson Harwood for 15 years.