The founder of Human Rights at Sea has stepped down to focus on behind-the-scenes investigations of abuse within shipping and coastal communities.

David Hammond, 52, said he was looking for a new challenge after a decade as an outspoken rights campaigner liaising with governments to develop laws and policies to improve the lives of workers at sea.

He quit as chief executive after publishing the Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea, a four-pronged agenda aimed at protecting the rights of maritime workers and communities.

The UK advocacy charity will continue to promote its goals under new leadership.

“Instead of banging on the outside of the door … I want to now start working much more closely, particularly with states, commercially and with other NGOs, on more discreet work in the background, which is equally influential,” Hammond said.

This work will be carried out under the banner of Human Rights at Sea International, a subsidiary of the original charity that was set up in 2013.

It will include establishing ownership of vessels involved in crew abandonment cases and investigating deaths and disappearances from ships and child labour abuse within coastal communities.

He said the group is already working on ensuring the fair treatment and education for staff on superyachts.

“In a nutshell, it’s boots on the ground work, which has always been my passion and priority, while allowing Human Rights at Sea to really focus on the strategic advocacy at United Nations and state level.”

Human Rights at Sea International, a nonprofit investigations and consultancy body, will be expanded under Hammond. It will also look to use proceeds from paid consultancies and investigations to help start-up organisations involved in similar work.

“There has to be a long-term and consistent, tenacious approach to looking into dark corners and calling out bad operations and the bad actors … there can be no let-up,” he said.

“The protection of human and labour rights at sea is a constant requirement to be fulfilled.”