The primary purpose of this study is to examine the shipmaster’s duty to render assistance at sea under international law. This duty is examined in the light of contemporary challenges and considerations posed by the phenomenon of irregular migration by sea, a problem which has intensified in recent years. The approach undertaken gives special emphasis to the shipmaster’s responsibilities in rescue operations, and his role in the fulfilment of States’ international obligations in the rendering of assistance.
Whilst the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides the basis for the regulation of the shipmaster’s duty to render assistance, it does not provide adequate guidance in the face of problems caused by irregular migration by sea. This work provides State officials, shipmasters, and other stakeholders with an analysis of the applicable law on the subject. It offers guidance, through an examination of numerous treaties, customary international law, and other international instruments which complement the rules found in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Consideration is given to the prescriptions adopted by the International Maritime Organization and the International Labour Organization. Furthermore, due to the humanitarian ramifications of the rendering of assistance at sea, the study also examines obligations imposed under human rights law and refugee law.
The study identifies lacunae in international law, and attempts to set forth an innovative interpretation to develop a more comprehensive legal approach to regulating the shipmaster’s duty to render assistance at sea.
Given the dynamic nature of the subject examined, this author has been constrained to report developments occurring up to December 2019.
Dr. Felicity Grace Attard
University of Malta
St. Ives Feast Day
17 December 2019