The Maritime Advocate–Issue 784


1. The Belgian solution
2. Boers helps with vaccinations
3. Tackling sanctions risk
4. Goods under CMR
5. Distress calls analysis
6. Shipping safety
7. Remote survey first
8. Carriers under the spotlight
9. Stormy seas for importers
10. Flawed international law

Readers’ responses to our articles are very welcome and, where suitable, will be reproduced:
Write to:

1. The Belgian solution

By Michael Grey

We have more than a million of the world’s most essential workers, whose labours have been absolutely essential during this pandemic, but they have the utmost difficulty in getting vaccinated. They are, of course, seafarers, whose itinerant lifestyles mean that they are seldom in one country for any length of time. They are also foreigners, which means that it does not appear to any government other than their own, that their health or vaccination status is anything to do with them. And most of the time, they spend their lives over the horizon, and effectively invisible, except when they are found to be Covid positive and everyone wants them to go away.

For the whole length of the pandemic, the treatment of the world’s seafarers has been shameful. Crews have been forced to remain at work far beyond the end of their contracts, denied shore leave or any relief, while those who might have relieved them have remained at home, mostly unpaid. The arrival of the vaccine “cavalry”, as Boris Johnson called this medical miracle, offered a solution that might have done something to mitigate the grim life of the seafarer. But just as the pandemic itself seemed to bring out in the worst in bureaucratic obstacle building, while everyone wants and needs what seafarers carry aboard their ships, the vaccination of this vital international workforce has proved a problem best passed down the line.

The emergence of new variants of the virus have magnified the apparent problems, while the need for specific vaccines to be approved, not just by those dishing it out, but in the ports or airports which seafarers might pass through, has been a major complication. It has not helped that the majority of the international workforce are residents of countries well down the food chain in terms of resources, and that most work aboard open register ships, which almost certainly don’t stay in port long enough for two jabs to be given.

There have been some bright spots in this catalogue of unfeeling gloom, which has seen the seafaring workforce treated like lepers in many countries, with ships, in some notable and shameful cases, not even permitted to land their dead. Cyprus, which has a sizeable fleet manned almost entirely by non-Cypriots, has offered vaccines to anyone aboard a Cyprus flag ship. Some parts of the US, where there is a range of approved vaccines on hand, have made them readily available to all seafarers, regardless of their nationality.

And since the end of last month, in an excellent case of thinking outside the box, Belgium has commissioned “roving” vaccination teams to provide the one-jab Johnson & Johnson vaccine to all seafarers using their ports. This is an important advance in thinking, with the Royal Belgian Shipowners’ Association acting on a proposal by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for the North Sea, along with the Directorate of Shipping. It is a big deal, if you think of the “throughput” of seafarers aboard ships passing through ports the size of Antwerp and Zeebrugge. And with a single dose vaccine, it is arguable that one problem has been halved, at a stroke.

One must only hope that this example of innovation and leadership, quickens the pulse of other administrations that depend so much upon the labours of seafarers and shows that solutions are perfectly possible, given the will and application of resources. The scheme not only applies to seafarers aboard ships in Belgian ports, but also those who might be joining or leaving ships docked in Belgium.
The Belgian model might also serve to shame some developed and well-resourced countries which depend completely upon shipping for their exports and imports. It has probably taken a certain amount of courage, to embark on a scheme that effectively takes responsibility for something that everyone else tended to put in the “too-hard” basket, and for the benefit of non-nationals. But it is apparent that seafarers have suffered long enough in this pandemic, with large numbers of them turning their back on a career that offers little other than exclusion from society and ill-treatment. Some clever folk in Belgium might have done something that is both practical and humane and goes some way to redress the balance.

Michael Grey is former editor of Lloyd’s List.

2. Boers helps with vaccinations

Crew services specialist Boers has launched seafarer vaccination programmes at German and Belgian ports, as shipping executives warn of onboard Covid-19 outbreaks because mariners are not getting vaccines quickly enough.

Seafarers arriving at ports in Antwerp, Ghent and Zeebrugge can get one-shot Covid-19 jabs through Boers’ scheme, which is being launched to protect key workers in the shipping industry. The vaccination is being carried out by the Belgian, Dutch and German governments and port and marine authorities, where Boers organises the complete process.
The respective governments in those countries secure the vaccines and distribute them to their local port and marine authorities. Boers Crew Services then helps to arrange appointments and organise transport for any seafarers booked in to have the vaccine.

The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine will be available free of charge until further notice to all mariners of any nationality arriving in Belgium for crew changes. There is a fee for the medical services provided by the port authorities.

“Getting as many seafarers as possible vaccinated is absolutely vital to supply chains and global markets,” said Hans Boers, Co-CEO of Boers, the Netherlands-based shipping crew transport services operator for Northern Europe.

“We’ve seen with the crew change crisis the challenges shipping companies face in hiring seafarers for their vessels, creating a shortage of available mariners which in turn has led to rising prices for goods, food and petrol as demand outstrips supply.

“For us, the most important thing is making sure crew members entering Belgian ports have access to free Covid-19 jabs. Protecting seafarers from the virus is paramount – and we have the means to help do that. The more mariners who have the vaccine, the quicker shipping and life in general can return to normal.”

Boers recently began offering free jabs to mariners at German ports in Hamburg and Bremerhaven. The company also provides vaccinations at ports in the Netherlands, albeit for just Dutch flagged or owned vessels but it plans to extend this service to all seafarers.

At Belgian ports, seafarers who want the Covid-19 vaccine must apply at least 48 hours before their ship is berthed. Application forms, which should include the vessel information, expected time of arrival and details of the mariner wanting the vaccination, must be sent to

On receiving the application, the port’s maritime medical centre will either confirm or refuse the request. Vaccinations on vessels are available for five or more crew members, with groups of four or less having to go to the medical centre. Any Covid-19 jab will be recorded in the seafarer’s vaccination booklet.

In Germany, Boers offers around 30 shots on Tuesdays and Thursdays and approximately 40 shots on Saturdays to seafarers at Hamburg’s port. Details for the number of vaccines available in Bremerhaven and on what days are being finalised.

Shipping companies that want vaccines for their seafarers at German ports need to provide Boers with a crew list, vaccination passport, the vessel’s contact details and a patient agreement and information sheet signed by the crew member.

For more details, call +(0)3110 415 7725 or email

3. Tackling sanctions risk

Legal and professional services firm, Ince, has launched an enhanced specialist sanctions compliance solution through a co-operation agreement with Windward, the predictive intelligence company applying AI to transform global maritime trade.

By accessing Windward’s  advanced data analysis based on AI and machine learning to provide strategic insights on complex and ambiguous sanctions compliance scenarios, InceMaritime  is offering a  solution that mitigates sanctions risk, demonstrates rigorous due diligence and helps avoid costly penalties. This is supported by Ince’s collaboration with New York based law firm, Seward & Kissel   to enable clients to obtain sanctions legal advice covering the EU, England & Wales and US sanctions applications, together with the new best risk analysis and reporting tools available, all under one roof, the company says.

The global political landscape continues to be an exceedingly complex arena. Requirements to address maritime and sanctions risks are now integral to financial, operational and political processes. This is putting immense pressure on organisations to demonstrate deeper knowledge and due diligence within their sanctions compliance strategies, particularly in light of increased accountability under the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020.

Ince says this new proposition will enable charterers, insurers, owners, investors, brokers, ship operators, financial institutions and defence agencies to benefit from a smarter, faster and forward-looking approach to risk mitigation. For example, Windward combines multiple sources, including a variety of data sets, weather, AIS transmissions, satellite, radio, and more to create a range of insights that are driven by AI and machine learning to develop intelligence on vessels, cargo and owners. It combines a series of risk indicators such as ownership and registration that underpin traditional due diligence processes with behavioural analysis to interpret potentially suspicious activity and anticipate next steps as well as their implications.

For more information visit:

4. Goods under CMR

In a recent brief on goods carried under the CMR Convention, the TT Club says that nomination of a ‘special interest in delivery’ for a carriage under the CMR Convention remains insufficient on its own; it is necessary for the value to be declared in the consignment note – a German interpretation.

Where goods are carried under CMR and it is desired to state a ‘special interest in delivery’, thereby increasing the carrier’s liability for loss or damage above the standard limit of SDR 8.33 per kilo, the language of Articles 24 and 26 of CMR specifically requires that the declared value or fixed amount be stated in the consignment note.  Courts may interpret this strictly, as shown by a recent case before the German Federal Court.—legal-eagle-effective-value-declaration-under-cmr/

5. Distress call analysis

A new Inmarsat report has analysed three years of global maritime distress call data to focus minds on true areas for concern and develop a vision for shipping’s future safety. Inmarsat, has put together the report based on an exclusive analysis of Global Maritime Distress and Safety Services alerts from ships.

Drawing on distress calls sent free at the point of use via the Inmarsat network from vessels worldwide between 2018 and 2020, The Future of Maritime Safety report is published by the Inmarsat Research Programme and has been written by the team at Intent Communications.

“We believe that the creation of an online anonymised data lake of safety information will allow us to identify weak spots and solutions, allocate resources and measure progress towards enhanced safety,” said Peter Broadhurst, senior vice president of safety & security at Inmarsat Maritime. “Where safety is concerned, data should be shared to create a level playing field for the entire industry.”

With the commercial vessel fleet growing by 4.1 per cent in 2019, the report logs 834 distress calls made by Inmarsat GMDSS service users in 2020, compared to 761 in the previous year. In capturing the broadly stable relationship between ships in service and distress call numbers, the report nonetheless highlights specific areas for attention.

Detailed analysis during the three years shows tankers overtaking fishing vessels to generate the highest number of GMDSS alerts (122 calls in 2020). The high frequency of alerts from coastal waters is interpreted as relating to the operation of older tonnage. Alerts from deep sea tankers are relatively scarce, where charterers require higher standards and younger tonnage is deployed. Fishing distress calls remain frequent, indicating that there is still a lot of work to do in this sector to raise overall safety for fishers and fishing vessels under individual flag state control.

The number of distress calls from bulk carriers and container ships remained largely consistent over the period, although the former witnessed a distinct cluster in the Yellow Sea between China, North Korea and South Korea, while the latter saw a spike in East Asia as Covid-19 unfolded in 2020.

“This report establishes significant trends that merit close scrutiny by all stakeholders and offers a powerful example of the potential for analytics and new technology to provide the basis for a data-driven and more proactive safety,” Broadhurst continued. “Today, a ship’s captain can often be seen as a single point of failure. This is in stark contrast to the ‘Swiss-cheese’ model of risk maritime regulators now accept, and the goal-based and proactive approach that puts rapidly evolving technology at the heart of better supporting the safety of life at sea.”

6. Shipping safety

Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty has recently published its annual review of trends and developments in shipping losses, risk challenges and safety.

The sector continued its long term positive safety trend through 2020 with the number of reported total losses of over 100 gt remaining stable at 49 compared with 48 a year earlier. This means annual shipping losses have halved over the past decade (2011 = 98), although 2020 represented the first time in five years that losses have not declined, suggesting the loss total could be stabilizing around the minimum achievable level, Allianz says.

The 2020 loss year represents a significant improvement on the rolling 10 year loss average, reflecting the positive effect of an increased focus on safety measures over time, such as regulation, improved ship design and technology, and risk management advances.

South China, Indochina, Indonesia and the Philippines are the global loss hotspots, accounting for a third of all losses in 2020 , with incidents up slightly year on year. The East Mediterranean and Black Sea and Arabian Gulf regions saw significant increases in loss activity to rank second and third. South East Asian waters are also the major loss location of the past decade, driven by a number of factors including high levels of local and international trade, congested ports and busy shipping lanes, older fleets and extreme weather exposure.

For more details see

7. Remote survey first

Bureau Veritas (BV), a world leader in testing, inspection, and certification, has successfully completed, together with MaDfly – Marine Drone Services – a service provider, the first full in-water ship’s hull survey with a mini ROV on Brittany Ferries’ ship Bretagne.

The survey, which was supervised by Bureau Veritas on behalf of the French flag, provided an opportunity to validate the integrity of the entire hull bottom. Efficient underwater inspections of shipping vessels are playing an increasingly important role for the industry as a substitute for docking surveys at agreed intervals or occasional surveys of hull damage.

This inspection was the first of its kind – the test survey was performed twice. A remotely operated drone performed an in-water survey with a BV surveyor on-board the vessel. In parallel, Bureau Veritas tested the capability with its own remote inspection solutions using full HD live video footage from MaDfly. This enabled BV to carry out the survey remotely without any attended surveyor on-board with live streaming, as well as video and audio recording and photo options.

8. Carriers under the spotlight

The Federal Maritime Commission has launched an expedited inquiry into the timing and legal sufficiency of ocean carrier practices with respect to certain surcharges.

Eight ocean carriers are being asked to provide the Commission’s Bureau of Enforcement (BoE) with details about congestion or related surcharges they have implemented or announced.
BoE gave the ocean carriers until August 13, 2021, to provide details that confirm any surcharges were instituted properly and in accordance with legal and regulatory obligations.

This action was taken in response to communications received by the Commission from multiple parties reporting that ocean carriers are improperly implementing surcharges.


9.  Stormy seas for importers

Accountants and consultants BDO have underlined the stormy seas facing UK importers in an article. Importers, particularly those reliant on container shipments, are facing a storm of disruptive factors. The Covid-19 pandemic has created winners and losers as it has across the economy. The pandemic has been joined by several other factors that are disrupting international markets and business for importers. On top of all that, there have been the post-Brexit challenges of managing imports.

See 10. Flawed international law

The consequences of port closures during the Covid-19 pandemic have highlighted flaws in the implementation of international law designed to protect the human rights of those at sea, according to a study by Dr Sofia Galani, Senior Lecturer in Public International Law at the University of Bristol and Human Rights at Sea Advisory Board member.

Speaking to Human Rights at Sea (HRAS), Galani says: “The systematic protection of persons at sea remains flawed. This is not because international law does not afford protection to persons at sea but rather because the many different legal regimes that apply to persons at sea often clash leaving them in something of a legal vacuum.”

For years, the plight of persons abandoned at sea has gone unnoticed, she says. “The global pandemic has changed this, as the suffering of persons stuck at sea during the pandemic, be it for employment, recreational, migration or other purposes, is now well-documented. The time is ripe to recognise that human rights apply at sea and find effective ways to enforce them.”

The right of states to close their ports for public health reasons is recognised under international law, but her study, published in the International and Comparative Law Quarterly (Cambridge University Press), highlights examples of how state actions and port closures have left people vulnerable. For example, the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt only received medical care after their plight was highlighted in the media. By then, around 600 sailors had Covid-19, and one had died. Additionally, migrants have been put at risk, as many states have not made exceptions to their port closures for asylum seekers.

For the full story see

Notices & Miscellany

On the bridge
Neil Abbott of Manu Marine has responded with the following comment on the last edition of Maritime Advocate.

“Your latest Advocate and the number one item Asleep at the Wheel is very succinct. In contrast to the OMBO proposition, the US Navy had (still have?) the opposite problem; too many people on the bridge!  An example is the USS Fitzgerald collision; none of the watchkeepers knew what to do when things were going wrong.

There could be something to be said for removing many ‘driver aids’ from cars, buses, trucks and ships so that the next generation of drivers, like me and many others from the old school of driving ships around the world, have situational awareness ingrained into them from day one; not the “I just have to wait for an alarm to wake me up” proposition so often promulgated.”

Industry debates “code red”
As a landmark United Nations climate study declares “code red for humanity”, maritime leaders are set to discuss how the shipping industry can play its part in meeting global targets, just two months ahead of the  COP26 talks in Glasgow.
Examining the core question: “Is shipping ready for the outcomes of COP26?” industry leaders will consider key factors which will help or hinder shipping as it navigates through the political, technological and economic challenges of creating a sustainable, carbon free and economically viable future.

Tim Wilkins, environment director and deputy managing director of INTERTANKO, will moderate the debate, which takes place during the headline conference of London International Shipping Week (LISW21) being held at the London headquarters of the UN’s International Maritime Organization on Wednesday September 15.

Anticipating a meaningful debate, he said: “COP26 represents an opportunity for shipping to demonstrate how it contributes to the fight against global climate change, identifying sustainable solutions to meet humanity’s climate goals. It is vital that our industry makes a meaningful contribution to this dialogue and focuses carefully on what messages to send to world leaders in Glasgow and this debate will be an important precursor to those high-level discussions.”

For more information or to attend the conference, entitled: Driving Growth In A Disrupted World, visit the website:

Life cycle of a ship
Hill Dickinson will be holding a seminar on the life cycle of a ship: the commercial opportunities of values-based shipping on Monday 13 September 2021 at 09.00 as part of London International Shipping Week. The seminar will take a practical look at the key themes of ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance), including finance, emissions, technology, people and recycling, and what this means for growth. To accompany the debate,   futurist, K D Adamson, is the keynote speaker.

Who is your unsung hero of 2021?
Nominations for the ‘Ince Inspired: The Unsung Heroes of 2021’ awards are now open. Strengthening the capacity to anticipate and recover from the disruptions of the pandemic has been a priority for the maritime industry over the past 18 months. Together with leading maritime charities Stella Maris, Sailors’ Society, The Seafarers’ Charity, The Mission to Seafarers, and Royal Museums Greenwich,  Ince is committed to championing ‘key workers’ at sea, and commemorating individuals and organisations who have overcome many obstacles and initiated significant change within the industry.

Ince is inviting readers to submit nominations for a company, master mariner or seafarer who has made an outstanding contribution during the Covid-19 pandemic by:
•    Raising morale;
•    Protecting life at sea;
•    Facilitating repatriation; or
•    Introducing coping strategies, such as providing additional measures towards improving the health and wellbeing of crew.

There is no limit as to the number of categories in which you can nominate. For more information and to nominate your unsung heroes of 2021, visit Ince’s website using the link below.
Nominate here

Ince will be hosting the in-person awards evening at HQS Wellington, to celebrate the worthy award winners on Tuesday 14 September – during London International Shipping Week. To register to attend the event, click the link below.
Register here
Please notify the Editor of your appointments, promotions, new office openings and other important happenings:

And finally…

(With thanks to Paul Dixon)

Another encounter between medicine and the law ……

A defending attorney was cross examining a coroner.

The attorney asked, “Before you signed the death certificate had you taken the man’s pulse?”

The coroner said, “No.”

The attorney then asked, “Did you listen for a heart beat?”


“Did you check for breathing?”


“So when you signed the death certificate you had not taken any steps to make sure the man was dead, had you?”

The coroner, now tired of the brow beating said, “Well, let me put it this way. The man’s brain was sitting in a jar on my desk, but for all I know he could be out there practicing law somewhere.”

Thanks for Reading the Maritime Advocate online

Maritime Advocate Online is a fortnightly digest of news and views on the maritime industries, with particular reference to legal issues and dispute resolution. It is published to over 20,000 individual subscribers each week and republished within firms and organisations all over the maritime world. It is the largest publication of its kind. We estimate it goes to around 60,000 readers in over 120 countries.