The government of the United Kingdom has decided to tackle substandard working conditions at sea by enforcing the provisions of the Modern Slavery Act, which came into force on 8 August.
Law enforcement officers across the country will join the fight against modern slavery at sea as they will be allowed to board and search vessels, seize evidence and arrest offenders, where it is suspected that modern slavery is taking place.
Officers will also be able to intercept vessels with reasonable grounds, arrest offenders and rescue victims from ships in UK waters.
“Our message is clear – the UK is taking action to protect victims,” Minister for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism Sarah Newton said.
Offenders arrested at sea for modern slavery offences now face up to life imprisonment for their crimes under the Modern Slavery Act.
The new powers are in addition to the support earlier announced by the government, including a new taskforce to coordinate cross-government action, GBP 33.5 million in official development assistance funding and a HMIC inspection to assess police response to modern slavery.
The announcement comes on the back of the recently detained offshore supply ship Malaviya Seven. The vessel, which was detained due to crew wages not being paid, has reportedly been released.
Over 2013 and 2014, a total of 37 potential victims of modern slavery, who reported exploitation in the maritime industry, were identified by the government.