Spotting slavery in the shipping industry

On Monday 9th October The Clewer Initiative held their first training with the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority. In partnership with the Diocese of Portsmouth, the afternoon focused particularly on spotting the signs of modern slavery in the shipping industry.

The afternoon began with a networking lunch, designed to give the delegates an opportunity to get to know one another. Many of those attending were from agencies or organisations working in and around the harbour. Faith charities Mission to Seafarers and Apostleship of the Sea were both in attendance, alongside secular charity Human Rights at Sea, and the International Transport Workers Federation. Officers from the police joined colleagues from the National Crime Agency, and other government bodies such as the Ministry for Transport. 

Over lunch the delegates swapped stories of ships they had been on where something just didn’t seem right, or where the exploitation was obvious but they hadn’t known what to do. Several mentioned that the lunch was helpful for making connections with other people in the sector they hadn’t met previously. 

The training was led by Lysbeth Ford, Partnership Development Manager with the GLAA. Previously a police officer with the Organised Crime unit, she spoke candidly about being sure that cases she had worked on early on in her time with the police had had connections to modern slavery, but the lack of awareness of the issue meant that she and her colleagues hadn’t made the connection. She credited the Modern Slavery Act 2015 with raising the profile of modern slavery in law enforcement, and making it much easier to prosecute by combining legislation covering slavery and trafficking into one Act. 

The first session covered important details of the GLAA, the Modern Slavery Act 2015, and how both had changed the landscape of investigating modern slavery in the UK. 

Ford shared stories of victims who had taken a long time to come forward, and gave tips on how best to speak to people so they are more comfortable sharing their story. For example, they must be interviewed alone, with an independent translator, otherwise you run the risk of their controller being in the room. 

The second session dove more deeply into the topic of shipping, as Ford invited the attendees to share their experiences of encountering exploitation on boats. The general picture was one of a complex industry, made more complicated by the vulnerability and isolation of seafarers. It was clear that there are unscrupulous practices blighting the industry, like seafarers being forced to pay for work by manning agents. Others had met seafarers who were clearly being exploited, their pay was six months late and they had no clean water, but in contrast to life at home in a conflict zone, they felt they couldn’t complain. 

Reflecting on the day, Revd Edwina Fennemore, the Liaison Lead on Modern Slavery for the Diocese of Portsmouth said she saw real potential for future collaboration between those present.

There was a clear commitment from those agencies present to ensure that this aspect of labour exploitation is identified as a distinctive ongoing work stream though the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Modern Slavery Partnership strategy. Further time together to look at particular areas for closer working between respective enforcement and inspection agencies, and supporting vulnerable seafarers will be key in taking this forward.
— Revd Edwina Fennemore

For more information on the training sessions we have available in the future, please visit our training page.