Some 400,000 seafarers from across the globe are now stranded on ships, continuing to work but unable to be relieved, in a deepening crew change crisis which threatens trade and maritime safety.
During a high-level event on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly (24 September), Captain Hedi Marzougui, who was in command of a vessel between December 2019 and May 2020, appealed to Governments to act to allow seafarers to come home.
Yet another appeal has been sent to Governments to recognize seafarers as keyworkers and address the humanitarian crisis faced by the shipping sector, ensure maritime safety and facilitate economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic..
By now, everyone is aware of the plight of the thousands of seafarers around the world who are either stuck onboard ships even after their contract has expired or stuck in countries other than their own due to COVID-19 or in quarantine currently.. It has even resulted in several suicides among seafarers out of sheer desperation..
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it incredibly difficult to facilitate crew changes on ships and despite collaboration and cooperation with many stakeholders in the industry, this problem still remains unresolved and there are still around 200,000 odd seafarers estimated to be trapped on board..
While it is becoming a huge task for any shipowner/manager to get replacement crew, the International Medical Health Association have created an interim paper providing a best practice approach based on common sense to mitigate the risk of transmission of Covid-19 in seafarers joining the ship..
It is alarming when news of suicide attempts, violence and desperation becomes commonplace.
This is, unfortunately, the state of affairs today with seafarers who are tired, on the brink of mental breakdowns (some have already gone over) and very desperate – this desperation is manifesting through various incidents.
Priyanka Ann Saini covers some of these points in this article.
IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has welcomed the commitment of 12 countries to facilitate crew changes and achieve key worker designation for seafarers, following a virtual ministerial summit hosted by the UK Government on 9 July.
This step represents significant progress to help resolve a growing crisis facing the maritime industry, and enable hundreds of thousands of stranded seafarers to go home or join ships.
A significant step has been made to protect seafarers’ health and safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim’s endorsement of a series of recommendations designed to ensure seafarers can access medical care ashore quickly and safely.
Receiving medical care ashore can be a matter of life or death for seafarers who fall ill while working on ships.
If getting seafarers off these ships causes chaos in supply chains, if ports back up from Singapore to San Francisco, and if this causes ship insurance providers to pull their coverage and global trade to grind to a halt; then that is on the heads of politicians, not the world’s seafarers.
This is the message from Steve Cotton General Secretary of ITF reiterating that Seafarers have done their part in this COVID-19 pandemic, and plenty more. Enough is enough, it is time to go home now.
I am not a seafarer, but I have had the privilege of being onboard different types of ships when I was handling them operationally many years ago..
There is something about some of the ships that I have worked on that has given me a sense of comfort and made me feel at home like I belonged there..
I said “some” ships because some ships didn’t give me that feeling and gave me a sense of uneasiness and I have felt like wanting to get out of there ASAP..
Mind you, I am talking about the “ship” and not about the people onboard the ship..
Well, it turns out that not just me or the ship’s crew that have a connection with the ship, but also Marine Pilots have or get this “feel of the ship” which they are navigating in and out of ports and it is quite important for them to get the feel of the ship..
I found this out when I got talking to Capt.Roberto Caballero Vega a Panama Canal Pilot of over 25 years who very kindly allowed me to reproduce his article about “The feel of the ship: The essence of Piloting” below..
“The restrictions for crew change due to COVID-19 is unsustainable for the safety and wellbeing of over 150,000 seafarers who will require international flights to be changed over to and from the ships they work on from the middle of June 2020. These seafarers are having to extend their service onboard ships after many months at sea, unable to be replaced or repatriated after long tours of duty.”
This is the message from The Secretary-General of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) who issued a joint statement to enlist the support of Governments for the facilitation of crew changes in ports and airports in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.