Liverpool Seafarers Centre is backing a call for urgent action for seafarers on the frontline of the pandemic as the world prepares to mark Day of the Seafarer 2020.
The Crosby charity says those working at sea need our support now more than ever as the annual event celebrates its 10th anniversary on 25 June.
The centre is urging countries like India and the Philippines to listen to the demands of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to repatriate seafarers stranded on ships indefinitely during the COVID-19 crisis.
The IMO estimates that from mid-June, as many as 300,000 seafarers each month will require international flights to enable crew changeovers.
About half of them will need to be repatriated home by aircraft while the other half will join ships. Additionally, around 70,000 cruise ship staff are currently waiting for repatriation.
The UK Chamber of Shipping has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to demand urgent action to facilitate crew changes, asking the government to call a virtual summit to assist the “forgotten key workers”.
Liverpool Seafarers Centre has been calling for help for seafarers throughout the pandemic, fearing the impact on the physical and mental health of the many thousands stranded on board ships long after their working contracts have ended.
John Wilson, chief executive of the charity, has been collecting and distributing donations including toiletries, confectionery, food and games, to seafarers but says more must be done to assist those affected by the pandemic travel restrictions.
The theme of this year’s Day of the Seafarers is ‘Seafarers are Key Workers’, recognising the vital role they play in delivering goods such as food and medicines to our shores. The campaign, led by the IMO, calls on member states to recognise seafarers as key workers and provide them with the support, assistance and travel options open to all key workers during the pandemic.
Mr Wilson said: “We mark Day of the Seafarer every year, but the event has taken on extra significance in 2020 as we consider the plight of the thousands of workers stranded on ships around the world.
“It is of paramount importance that the home countries of our seafarers relax their travel restrictions to enable them to return home to their families when their duties have ended. Seafarers should be classed as international key workers and afforded the same rights as all key workers.
“We have already seen the effects on the seafarers we have visited, with many left feeling isolated and depressed by the current situation, and we can only imagine the long-term effects this will have on mental health. I back the UK Chamber’s plea to Boris Johnson and the IMO’s demands for countries to relax their travel restrictions to provide some hope to the thousands of seafarers on the Day of the Seafarer.”
Notes to editors
- There are more than 1.2m seafarers at sea at any one time, according to UK Chamber of Shipping, Jun 17.
- International Maritime Organization figures estimate that as many as 300,000 seafarers each month will require international flights to enable crew changeovers. Additionally, around 70,000 cruise ship staff are currently waiting for repatriation.
- Most seafarers work a typical contract length of 11 months, but many have now been at sea for up to 15 months due to the pandemic, working on average 10-12 hours a day.
- Charitable organisation Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) says seafarers face isolation, sleep disruption, exhaustion. A recent survey revealed that 1/5 seafarers had thought of self-harm.
- HRAS reported an ‘unprecedented’ flow of pleas about non-payment of wages, contracts being renewed without consent, and crews being left in foreign ports without money or flights home. The organisation has formally called on governments to recognise seafarers as key workers.