Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


HUMAN SEA Report Summary

Project ID: 340770
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: France

Periodic Report Summary 1 - HUMAN SEA (The development of human activities at sea - What legal framework? “For a new Maritime Law”)

The ERC Human Sea program (contract no. 340770) endeavours to address legal questions raised by the development of new activities at sea and new technological developments. It addressed the professional sector of the mercantile marine, the first world-wide sector deregulated by the freedom of registration of vessels, given the legal international framework, which concerns nearly 90% of international commerce. Paradoxically, the sector is strictly governed by the agreements of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as concerns navigational security (SOLAS, MARPOL), as well as the certificates and competences of crew members (STCW). The ILO Maritime Labour Convention of 2006, which was implemented in 2013, intensified this movement. The study Seafarers: An international market in perspective – Gens de mer, un marché international du travail, P. Chaumette (ed.) Gomylex, Bilbao, July 2016 analysed and synthesized the implementation of the convention on both the regional and the national level.

The social aspect, as concerns the status of workers and working at sea, is the subject of an ongoing doctoral thesis devoted to offshore platforms. The approach, which covers the prevention of accidents as well as marine pollution, will be developed in the program. Employing this approach means examining the responsibility of management in the event of accidents and pollution even though national legislations vary. This has led to entries in the research notes of the Hypothesis of Human Sea research website ( Publications concerning the regional and national implementation of international maritime labour conventions, specifically the MLC of 2006, Convention 188 of 2007 dealing with fishing, and the ILO Convention 185 concerning identity papers of seafarers, have followed.

The extent of international commerce by sea, founded on the basis freedom to navigate and to trade has opened the door for illicit traffic by sea of various sorts governed by legal systems which differ one from the other. The ERC Human Sea program examined the various situations and realities, particularly those concerning pirating, smuggling of human beings, smuggling of migrants, illegal fishing and drug traffic. This led to an international symposium held in October 2015 in Nantes and a study published by Gomylex, Bilbao, in October 2016: Maritime Areas: Control and prevention of illegal traffic at sea – Espaces marins: Surveillance et prévention des trafics illicites en mer.
The interests of the research program go beyond offshore gas and oil platforms. The development of sea-based renewal energies requires planning of marine spaces so as to assure safe navigation and prevent conflicts concerning use of protected marine zones, zones of transit toward ports or fishing zones, whose functions are distinct from one another. Sea-based renewable energies modify the ways in which marine space is used, particularly seafloors equipped with electric cables, but also maritime professions, whose status must be defined. Mechanical and electrical technicians are transported by vessels in view of intervening at sea, today on permanently installed wind turbines and tomorrow, perhaps, on floating installations. Are these individuals seafarers or hybrid-status workers?
The development of on-board computing, computerized port operations, the arrival of marine drones remotely controlled either on land or aboard a vessel and eventually land-controlled crewless ships raise questions of computer security. Cybersecurity is a key element in the operation of complex modern systems. Distances at sea are potential weak points leading to specific risks. High reliability organization, born of the nuclear industry and adapted for air traffic, may be a useful model in conceiving security systems for maritime and port activities. Research group must address these questions in conjunction with industrial partners and administrations.
The status of the high sea, the protection of its environment and marine biodiversity, all of which are considered “governance of the oceans,” will be central concerns of the second part of the ERC Human Sea program.

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