An ongoing Human Rights at Sea project is the Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea. Initiated in February 2019 by Founder David Hammond in response to the widespread, ongoing abuse of human rights at sea, the Declaration consolidates existing international laws into a single document.

What Is The Geneva Declaration On Human Rights About?

The Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea confirms that human rights apply at sea as they do on land.

The Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea affirms that human rights are applicable at sea just as they are on land.

The Declaration provides practical guidance to states on detecting, addressing, and ultimately preventing human rights abuses at sea. They are currently collaborating with individual states and the UN to promote the adoption of the Declaration.

4 Main Principles

  1. Human rights 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.

A word from David Hammond:

David is Founder of Human Rights at Sea, now Executive Director of Human Rights at Sea International, a socially-focused commercial entity directly supporting states and businesses to meet and exceed human rights standards across the maritime environment.

To reach out to him, contact his email here:

How did it begin?

“The Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea was conceived in April 2019 by myself following a state-level engagement in India as a potential new route for implementing a maritime-focused human rights soft-law guidance document. The first version was drafted along with Professor Steven Haines in Geneva, before being improved on by an expert core drafting team comprised of leading international academics and lawyers.”

What does it aim to achieve?

“Importantly, it adds no new legal requirements on states to uphold human rights protections at sea, rather draws together existing international law provisions as a focal point for all to engage with and refer to.”

Who are the ones advocating it?

“It has been legally checked by teams of international lawyers from four main international law firms specialising in maritime activities, and it was finally issued in March 2022 in Switzerland with the support of the Mayor of Geneva.

At the time of writing, my former civil society charitable organisation, Human Rights at Sea, continues to lead the profile and develop the Declaration up-to-and-including UN level, while my team promotes its use in the superyacht and other marine sectors. Notably, its global reach is supported by translation into 12 languages.”

Who does it benefit the superyacht sector among others?

“While the document is voluntary to use, with either a single, or multiple state’s endorsement, it could become a key international reference for better supporting human rights protections for seafarers, superyacht crew, and all persons who work in the related supply and value chains.”

If adopted and implemented across coastal, port and flag state authorities, its value in terms of raising awareness, influencing maritime policy, assisting with crew training, and potentially supporting cases where abuses have occurred (especially where emerging mandatory human rights due diligence is required), should not be underestimated. It also supports and sits well alongside the likes of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006.

I am quietly proud to have initiated the Declaration’s concept, and I am delighted that Human Rights at Sea will continue to drive forward its adoption.”

For More Information

To review the Declaration, see:

To read a detailed review of the Declaration, go here:

For more information about Human Rights at Sea International, click through this link:

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