Date of Award
Master of Science in Maritime Affairs
Maritime Safety & Environmental Administration
This paper attempts to analyze protests1 carried out by ships as acts of objection in the exercise of the human right to protest. The purpose of the analysis is to find out whether protests carried out by ships have recognition and legitimation in the maritime industry. Also, considering the one proposal to regulate this maritime activity at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the analysis attempts to find out whether a new maritime instrument such a Code of Conduct is necessary. This academic exercise takes the reader from the analysis of the reasons why people protest and the right to protest as a human right and its recognition by the international law in general and the IMO in particular to the analysis of the reasons why ships are used to protest, the actors in protests and the most important protest groups currently owning and operating protest ships. In addition, a few cases of protest carried out by ships in maritime zones defined according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), in which the law was breached are analyzed, with the objective to find out what the law of application was and how it was enforced. The conclusions drawn are based on the analytical evidence that protests carried out by ships are legitimate and recognized internationally but hardly accepted by the maritime community due to a distorted perception of the right to protest and due to the weak implementation and enforcement of maritime law in particular on the high seas. Therefore, a Code of Conduct telling protesters not to break the law seems redundant. However, the analysis concludes that risk assessments should be compulsory, not only for protest ships but also for protest targets when protest activities are imminent, especially for direct actions protests; that protest target should learn how to deal with protests through proper guidelines and, finally, that maritime safety and pollution prevention during protests carried out by ships could be improved making compulsory for non-commercial vessels the application of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974 as amended, the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) as amended, the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), 2006 and the International Convention on Load Lines (LL), 1966. Further research might explore how to develop guidelines for risk assessments to deal with protests carried out by ships and address the security issue during protests on the high seas.