Liverpool Seafarers Centre (LSC) is reporting the urgent plight of seafarers from India and the Philippines who ‘feel like prisoners’ aboard ship as they are unable to return home.
LSC CEO John Wilson said he has seen a large number of Filipino and Indian seafarers under huge strain as a result of flight bans into and out of their home countries. He said the Filipinos alone account for a quarter of merchant seafarers with an estimated 40,000 awaiting crew change according to the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). Meanwhile, India’s Maritime Association of Shipowners, Shipmanagers and Agents (MASSA) estimates the number of stranded Indian crew members to be approximately 40,000. In total ICS says 150,000 seafarers will need crew changes by May 15.
“These seafarers may already have been at sea for six to nine months and they want to go home, they want to see their families especially during this period of crisis but are being told they cannot,” he said. “They are effectively prisoners on their own ships. The pressure on their mental health is huge and this exacerbates the risk of accident. We urge the major organisations that are fighting for seafarers, such as the International Maritime Organisation (for long list see notes to editors), which have already done so much to champion and protect seafarers, to continue to exert pressure on India and the Philippines to allow seafarers to fly home. With so many seafarers coming from these countries they simply must not be forgotten about.”
Mr Wilson said he welcomed reports of testing for seafarers able to return to the Philippines by ship enabling them to forego 14 day quarantine periods if given a clean bill of health. On May 6 The Manila Times reported 13 cruise ships were at the Manila Bay anchorage area as of May 4 and eight more ships are expected to arrive with 4,179 Filipino seafarers onboard. Meanwhile, in India the Government is now allowing crew changes of Indian national seafarers for vessels docked or anchored at its ports. However, it has made no comment on the repatriation of Indian seafarers stranded on ships in various overseas locations.
Mr Wilson further reported that crew changes for European seafarers are starting to work well. He said this week he has helped welcome five seafarers to Liverpool from Ukraine, Croatia, Romania, Poland, and Sri Lanka. He said the five had a smooth transfer flying into London Heathrow before travelling to Liverpool by taxi. He said they maintained social distancing on the flight, used face masks and experienced no holdups. The same was the case on the return journey for the crew they relieved.
“The global shipping community has really come together to ensure seafarers are recognised and appreciated as key workers,” he said. “The lobbying from NGOs, ship management companies and shipping lines has resulted in Governments in Europe and the European Commission, at least, taking the common-sense approach recognising the huge strain being put on seafarers and the need for regular crew changes.”
Mr Wilson said seafarers mental health was already a growing issue before the crisis and pointed to a study by Yale University, published last October. After consulting with 1,572 seafarers of different ranks around the world the survey found that within the two weeks prior to being surveyed, 20 per cent had contemplated suicide or self-harm, 25 per cent had suffered depression and 17 per cent had experienced anxiety. Key factors were violence and bullying, a lack of job satisfaction and not feeling valued.
Mr Wilson said LSC is increasing its ship visits to vessel-bound seafarers after temporarily closing its centres in Crosby and Eastham to crew and visitors following Government advice on March 20 2020. He appealed for cash donations as well as toiletries, confectionary, puzzles and games, warm clothing, fresh fruit, recently released CDs and DVDs. He said donated goods can be left in the porch of LSC’s Crosby headquarters or Eastham base from where the LSC team will then take them to ships direct.
There are more than 50,000 merchant vessels in the world, including 5,150 container ships, each with an average crew of 22 persons – accounting for a workforce of over one million people, responsible for delivering 90 per cent of the world’s goods and 95pc of the UK’s imports and exports. Seafarers, men and women, are continuing to work seven days a week through the pandemic, many with their contracts extended because they are unable to disembark their ships.
Notes to editors
LSC said a number of organisations are playing a key role in the international effort to support seafarers. While there are many organisations playing their part they include: the International Maritime Organisation, the International Labour Organisation, the World Health Organisation, the UK Department for Transport, the International Chamber of Shipping, the International Transport Workers Federation, UK Chamber of Shipping, International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network.
Liverpool Seafarers Centre background
Liverpool Seafarers Centre, which won the Positive Impact Award at the Mersey Maritime Industry Awards 2020 in March, helps 50,000 seafarers each year visiting Merseyside ports. It is a partnership between Apostleship of the Sea (Liverpool) and The Mersey Mission to Seafarers. In September 2019, LSC was awarded the world’s best seafarer centre at the International Seafarer Welfare Awards (ISWAN) as nominated and voted for by mariners themselves. The charity’s work involves visiting vessels to integrate with the crew, offering a listening ear to help combat isolation and loneliness and providing places ashore for seafarers to relax away from their working environment.
* LSC is funded by donations from the churches, we well as general donations and a new port levy on shipping lines.
* LSC is headquartered at Colonsay House in Crosby and opened a new centre in Eastham on Wirral opened in 2017.
* Corporate supporters of LSC include: Essar’s Stanlow oil refinery in Ellesmere Port, Peel Ports, the Merchant Navy Welfare Board, the Mersey River Pilots, Mersey Maritime, Polaris Media Management, the Voluntary Aid Club and The Phoebe Wortley Charitable Trust.