UK Chamber of Shipping and Nautilus International welcome Government clarification over Nationality and Borders Bill

The UK Chamber of Shipping and Nautilus International welcome the assurance that we have received today from the Government that Masters and crews of merchant ships will not be criminalised for rescuing distressed persons at sea and bringing them ashore in the UK.  

We jointly expressed our concerns that the Nationality and Borders Bill marked a change to the Government’s approach to obligations under international maritime law to protect lives at sea.  Today we have received a letter stating that the Bill does not seek to punish humanitarian actions and that the Government recognises and welcomes the desire of individuals and community groups to help.  Its target is the ruthless criminal gangs who put lives at risk by smuggling people across the Channel. 

UK Chamber CEO, Bob Sanguinetti, said:

“We were deeply concerned that the Nationality and Borders Bill could have led to the prosecution of seafarers rescuing persons found at sea whose lives were in immediate danger.  International conventions place a duty to ships’ crews to assist in such situations.  The co-operation and assistance of coastal states is of the utmost importance and it is reassuring that the British Government will continue to support those who perform humanitarian actions at sea.”

We are pleased to note that the Government will fully address these issues in policy guidance, although our preference would be for the position to be made clear in the legislation.

Nautilus International General Secretary Mark Dickinson said: 

'We are reassured by the Government's commitment but would emphasise that under international law Masters are required to assist anyone found at sea who is in danger and it is not for the Master, nor any of the ship’s crew, to determine the status of those being rescued."

"Fear of being criminalised for fulfilling their obligations to persons in danger of being lost at sea is real and whilst the Government’s commitment is very welcome, we would prefer that the legislation is drafted in a way that puts this commitment beyond legal doubt."

The Government has pointed to the UK’s proud track record of helping those facing persecution, oppression and tyranny.  The UK Chamber and Nautilus are equally proud of the roles that its members have played in preserving lives and coming to the aid of those found in danger.