by Ryann Hall, Intern, Center for Seafarers’ Rights
Interning at the Seamen’s Church Institute’s (SCI) Center for Seafarers’ Rights has introduced me to an industry that plays an integral role in international commerce yet remains unknown to many people. Growing up as a dinghy sailor, I have always had an affinity for the water and people who could consider the ocean a second home. This summer, I had the opportunity to combine two of my interests: advocacy and the sea. Throughout the summer I have learned that the maritime industry and the legal aspects of seafarers’ rights contain far more complexities than I could have imagined.
Working in the Center for Seafarers’ Rights presented me with different opportunities than other internships might have. I had the chance to learn law, practically apply law to facts and see firsthand how the law affects various sectors in the maritime industry. Responding to legal questions from seafarers around the world made up the core of the internship. This year has been particularly exciting for seafarers’ rights because the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC, 2006) comes into force for many countries on August 20, 2013. I have spent many hours researching and responding to legal questions, applying the current governing law, and noting how that law will be affected by implementation of the MLC, 2006. I have assisted with inquiries from around the world about abandoned or arrested ships, contractual conditions, property law, shore leave, and trusts and estates. Although seafarers’ rights seem like a narrow area of the law, the issues seafarers experience daily encompass a variety of legal aspects. Moreover, the men and women who work aboard ships have responsibility for the movement of most international trade. If issues impacting seafarers remain unresolved, the international economy will feel the effects.
As part of my internship, I had many learning opportunities outside the office. I spent two days with the Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry learning about ship registration procedures and flag state responsibilities. I also spent two days with the United States Coast Guard Sector New York where I went on a port state inspection of a foreign flag vessel and learned about American implementation of international maritime conventions as well as how the Coast Guard ensures the safety of US waterways. I obtained more firsthand experience on vessels when I went ship visiting with the chaplains. These experiences afforded me the opportunity to witness firsthand how the laws and regulations I study daily have an effect on the maritime industry and its employees.
As my internship comes to a close, I realize that SCI’s services to seafarers play a vital role in the wellbeing of the profession. Through advocacy and support, SCI has made an international impact on the maritime community. The scope of SCI’s mission becomes clear when noting the nationalities and vessel locations of seafarers seeking legal advocacy. Requests for assistance come from not just Port Newark but across the world.