Fadi Alnaef

Fadi Alnaef graduated from LJMU in July 2023 with a degree in maritime business and management.

However, his route to studying at LJMU is perhaps not a conventional one. Fadi grew up in Damascus, Syria, but fled his home country in 2014 as the civil war escalated.

He sought refuge initially in Greece, where he eventually was able to study navigation and maritime transport, with a dream of eventually coming to the UK to gain a university degree. In 2020 Fadi was able to move to the UK after securing his place for study with the School of Engineering.

Fadi worked part-time to fund his studies, working for TikTok as an Arabic language content moderator.

He completed his dissertation on a topic very close to his heart and his own experience as a refugee - ‘An investigation into the potential impact of the application of SAR [Search and Rescue] on the rise in refugee and migrant boat crossings in the Mediterranean’.

“I felt I owe it to the people who haven’t made it to their destination, or they’ve lost their lives at sea, to do some research and highlight international responsibility and consequences on shipping sector towards them.”

– Fadi Alnaef

His dissertation research looked into the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and Search and Rescue (SAR) Conventions, which are enshrined in international law and underpin the ancient maritime practice of going to the aid of vessels in distress.

The conventions are intended to be applied universally and ubiquitously, without exclusion. The obligations set out in these conventions have traditionally superseded geopolitical shifts, conflict and regional or international instability.

However, the rise in the number of refugee and migrant journeys via maritime routes and resulting vessels in distress with refugees and migrants as passengers, has put immense pressure on the shipping industry and SAR organisations to continue to fulfil their obligations under these laws, leading some vessels and SAR organisations to abandon their international obligations, with sometimes fatal results.

Fadi’s research included a PESTEL (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal) analysis to assess the key elements which may have an influence on whether or not a ship launches an SAR mission.

The study considered in what circumstances and under which external factors may ultimately cause a ship or shipping company to override its SAR obligations.

This analysis facilitates a greater understanding of whether SOLAS and accompanying legislation guiding SAR missions is fit for purpose with regard to responding to vessels in distress when their passengers are refugees and migrants in the current climate.

Dr Robyn Pyne, Fadi’s dissertation supervisor, said: “Understandably, Fadi chose to focus on the topic because of his own personal experience. It was very challenging for him, at first, to take an objective view of the topic and we had to work together closely to establish a suitable analytical framework and to shape the final project. Fadi’s final dissertation was of an exceptionally high standard and made a valuable contribution to knowledge on a highly salient issue.”

On his next steps now he’s completed his undergraduate degree with LJMU, Fadi said: “I am hoping to work in a shipping company and carry on my studies to do a master's degree.”