Remedies for Seafarers in case of injuries for arrest (India)

By Anshuman Kar


In the present and forthcoming era of globalization, the importance of sea trade or maritime trade can be far from being neglected. According to a UNCTAD report of 2021, 80% of the world’s trade is carried out through the path of the sea. Therefore, it is clearly evident that maritime trade forms the backbone of international trade at present date.

To comprehend the importance of any law or rights, awareness has to be raised, regarding the conditions and background of the problems which culminated while forming the laws i.e., genesis of law. In today’s adversely intense and competitive trade business we often neglect and run away from bothering to know about those people who engaged in facilitating those trades, which form a part of our everyday life through the commodities which we put to use.


Labor conditions of seafarers are suboptimal at present day. Seafarers and those facilitating labor in the arena of sea trade work in poor conditions being debarred from even the bare minimum facilities. These unfavorable working conditions arise due to temporary nature of the work and bodies of law which govern them; i.e., they are governed by the law of the land in which they sail. The Maritime Labor Convention (2006) which was adopted by the International Labor Organization tried to deliver promises to seafarers but again, it is primarily on the member nations to ratify the convention, which further kept seafarers’ rights and good working conditions sought by convention, in abeyance.

Health and well-being of seafarers must be the topmost priority, since it is the workers who are the quintessential elements of world trade. Their good health is essential because they spent most of their time amidst the sea, sailing, and rarely on ports. Therefore, they should be awarded adequate medical facilities and treatment by the organizations they work for, who should be held accountable for maintaining and upholding international standards in their work environments. Additionally, maximum working hours and breaks between the works should be regularized as per international convention rules.

The Maritime Labor Convention, 2006, termed as the fourth pillar of International maritime law was ratified by India in October 2015. This law not only protects rights of seafarers but also provides for minimum standards and working conditions which must be adhered to.


Different measures were adopted by different countries in regards to laws related to mariners, and the same goes for our nation. As a sovereign and law-abiding nation, India too, enacted a standardized set of just and equitable legislations and laws relating to the rights, duties and obligations which should be awarded to its mariners. Some such acts are enumerated as under:

  1. The Merchant shipping act of 1958, which provides for the mandatory registration of ships, vessels; whether they are merely sailing or involved in the pisciculture industry, whether or not such vessels comply with the enactments related to safety of passengers and cargo ships, civil liability for oil pollution damages, and so on. It also instates liability on shipowners for the loss of life of mariners or other people onboard due to the fault of the vessels/owner companies, or their commanders. Liability of ship owners can be considered as joint as well as several. Any person can sue in respect of such loss of life and damages, if some loss as such is faced by him as per the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act.
  • Under the Employees Compensation act, 1923 empowers specifically those individuals who seek compensation in case of death or personal injury. For the purpose of the act, it treats master, seamen or crew as an employee. However, one limitation of the act is that it does not apply to Indians seafarers operating on foreign flagships.


In the pre-independence era, issues of jurisdiction related to of matters of mariners were dealt with by several acts, such as the Admiralty court Act, 1840, The Admiralty Court Act 1861, the Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act, 1890 and some provision of Letters Patent, 1865, which served as the essentials of maritime law in India. But the Government of India in 2017 repealed the archaic legislations and enacted The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Act, 2017.

This act applied to every vessel in the territorial waters of India barring foreign vessels of non-commercial purpose.

The archaic British law maritime jurisdiction was limited to the High Court of Calcutta and the Madras and Bombay High Courts but through the Admiralty Act, 2017 it extended jurisdiction to High Court of Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka, Hyderabad and Odisha and the act also conferred power upon the central government to extend jurisdiction of such maritime legislations to any other High Court as required.

A High Court with admiralty jurisdiction has power to exercise authority on both vessels, as well as persons within the territorial waters of India. Such courts can exercise power over persons in relation to maritime claims, barring few exceptions. These courts have authority to arrest any vessel within their jurisdiction for providing security for the purpose of any required maritime claim.


Compensation related to maritime claims achieved several purposes in mitigating the circumstances which have occurred. While they do not serve as complete remedies in themselves, but to an extent they help in coping with life and matters related to seafarers and make sure that they have some source of income and a medium and forum of redressal of their aggrieved claims.

In maritime matters, liability can arise on the side of shipowners and at times on the government, when engaged in sovereign functions. The Maritime Convention 2006 put some liability on shipowners to make sure mariners are protected from financial consequences of sickness, injury and death occurring during the employment. Ship owners shall provide compensation for financial security in event of death or disability, which can prolong for life. Provisions for respectful burial and disposal of bodies of seafarers have also been provided by such acts, in India.


All in all, maintaining the sanctity of sea trade as an institutionalized practice boils down to maintaining the well-being of all the stakeholders who are involved in the smooth functioning of the institution. Through the course of time, International Labor Conventions have played a significant role in making the lives of workers across the world easier and more worthwhile and enjoyable, which also translated down to marine workers through time. Therefore, it is necessary to acknowledge the importance of such seafarers, who otherwise led miserable lives, with close to no rights in certain nations. With the incubation of new legislative bills for them, the present day situation has translated into something much better; these workers now have almost free legal representation in cross-border matters, fair treatment and uniformity in case of criminal proceedings against them, and other such risks, protected both nationally and internationally through conventions. However, a large number of risks are still associated with the amount of compromising circumstances dealt with by these mariners, and this a larger amount of knowledge and interference of law is required, in order better facilitate their profession and grant them an easier, risk free lifestyle both at sea, and on land.