Provide an enforceable global protocol for “green channel” travel for seafarers
This is the call from Frank Coles who has started a petition to the President of the United States Joe Biden and 10 other decision-makers to create a protocol that sets out the right of seafarers to travel to and from ships without the onerous regulations for visas..
Frank Coles started this petition on Change.org to draw the world leaders’ attention to the various hardships that continue to dog the seafarers in terms of signing on and signing off from the various ships on which they are working.. “Mariners worldwide deliver 80% of trade and are crucial to the supply chain. This has been enhanced and more important since COVID,” said Frank Coles in the petition..
As highlighted in our Shipping and Freight Annual Review 2021, while maritime trade took a comparatively less beating compared to other industries due to COVID-19, one of the KEY elements of the maritime trade took a severe beating and that element was the “Seafarers”.. While the maritime industry was able to mitigate the shock and disruption the seafarers faced a precarious situation as the pandemic triggered an unprecedented global crew-change crisis.. Due to the restrictions imposed on global travel, hundreds of thousands of seafarers could not sign off from ships to return home for their breaks while an equivalent number were unable to join their ships and to provide for their families..
Hundreds of thousands of seafarers were stuck onboard various ships across the world as various countries enforced crew sign-on/off restrictions at various stages, some for months on end, even without pay as their contract periods ended and without a replacement on board..
Countries have closed their borders, flights stopped and extremely taxing rules were put in place for any travel.. This has placed an extraordinary strain on the mental welfare of the mariners.. It has also put the safety of ships at risk..
The sad plight of seafarers
While the exact number of seafarer deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic is not known, there are at least 12 known fatalities including that of Capt. Angelo Capurro an Italian national, whose story highlights the plight that the seafarers face on a daily basis in trying to keep global trade alive..
Capt. Capurro was the Captain of the containership MV Ital Libera and joined the ship in South Africa on March 28, 2021, to commandeer the ship on its South Africa/Far East service.. On the 2nd of April, he shows symptoms of COVID-19 despite having tested negative on the 26th of March before leaving Italy for South Africa to join the ship.. Without going into more detail, his condition onboard the ship deteriorated, eventually resulting in him passing away on the 13th of April 2021 at sea.. But there was no suitable place on board the Ital Libera to keep the corpse, meaning Capt. Capurro’s body remained in a storage room for six weeks..
In the interim period, it has been reported that his wife along with the ship operator Italia Maritima, the Italian Ministry of Foreign affairs, and multiple Italian embassies appealed to a number of countries to disembark Capt. Capurro’s body.. But, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, the Philippines, and South Africa had all implemented COVID-19 restrictions that banned the disembarkation and repatriation of his remains..
After the Ministry informed the company of the rejections, Italia Marittima declared a force majeure, canceling the commercial voyage, and sent the vessel on a humanitarian mission from Indonesia to Italy to return Capt. Capurro’s body to his family.. His remains were eventually delivered to the family 2 months after he passed away on board the very ship that he commanded..
Capt. Capurro’s story is far from unique, with the bodies of at least 10 seafarers who died at sea, denied disembarkation to repatriate the remains, according to the ITF even though these seafarers did not die from COVID-19..
Many seafarers extended their contracts by several months to keep supplies of food, fuel, and medicine flowing around the world, with some not seeing land in 18 months.. Extended periods at sea without a break have taken their toll on seafarers, with fatigue and mental illness a threat to safety.. An ITF seafarers poll in 2021 found that 67% of the 593 respondents reported seeing signs of mental health issues, depression, and suicidal ideation among crew members..
Globally there are around 1.9 million seafarers working around the clock to keep global trade moving and ensure that we are able to maintain our standard of living at the risk of their own lives.. As per BIMCO/ICS Seafarer Workforce Report 2021, the global supply of seafarers stood at 1,892,720, up from 1,647,494 in 2015 of which 857,540 were officers, and 1,035,180 were ratings (the skilled seafarers who carry out support work)..
The five largest seafarer-supplying countries were the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Indonesia, China, and India, representing 44% of the global seafarer workforce..
During the COVID-19 pandemic, seafarers continued to demonstrate great professionalism and dedication, supporting the delivery of food, medical supplies, fuel, and other essential goods and helping keep supply chains active and global commerce running..
Join me in saluting and thanking these brave souls working around the clock to keep global trade moving and ensuring that we are able to maintain our standard of living at the risk of their own lives.. #seafarersmatter #seafarersarekeyworkers
Join me in signing this petition as we try to keep raising awareness of the plight of the seafarers wherever and however possible..
Petition · Provide an enforceable global protocol for “green channel” travel for seafarers · Change.org
As rightly put by Coles, “The industry will comply with vaccines and isolation but we must have a global enforceable protocol for the repatriation of mariners and health care in ports.“..
“Seafarers have worked on, governments have been blind and or ignorant to the plight of the seafarers. This is despite the fact that almost anything you have in your home came on a ship at one time… truckers and nurses did an amazing job like many others, but they all went home… seafarers did not…” said Coles
The decision-makers include Boris Johnson, Council of the European Union, United States Department of Transportation, Mitch McConnell (Senator), Pete Buttigieg (United States secretary of transportation), Ron DeSantis (Governor of Florida), Marco Rubio (Senator), Debbie Mayfield (State Senator) and Bill Posey (Representative).