Ecumenical charity Liverpool Seafarers Centre has renewed calls to repatriate stranded seafarers, echoing the International Maritime Organization’s plea to governments ahead of a UN General Assembly meeting.
The Crosby charity has warned of the devastating impact on the mental health of those still stuck on ships due to coronavirus travel restrictions.
Centre chief executive John Wilson said it was becoming increasingly urgent to resolve the crew-change crisis, which has left more than 300,000 seafarers still trapped at sea.
And he called on churchgoers to continue to remember in their prayers those who make a living from the sea as well as lobbying their MP to act to end their plight.The issue will come into sharp focus as the world prepares to mark World Maritime Day on 24 September.
Mr Wilson spoke as the IMO has called on governments to designate seafarers as key workers, implement its protocols to allow safe crew changes and remove restrictions on flights, travel and medical care.
Mr Wilson has previously warned that the response to getting seafarers home has been too slow. At an International Maritime Summit in July, 13 out of 15 countries agreed to end travel restrictions and allow exemptions for crew changes following months of uncertainty for those trapped on board vessels. Yet, reports later that month said most of those 13 countries had not moved to have immigration, travel or health procedures in place that would easily facilitate the transfer of crew members.
LSC has been liaising with local authorities on the issue of repatriation and lobbying for measures to afford greater rights to those working beyond their contracts. Mr Wilson has also voiced fears for those left at home unable to travel to begin their employment contracts, leaving them unable to provide for their families.
He said: “We are now six months into the pandemic with no end in sight for the thousands of seafarers trapped on board ships long beyond the time their contracts should have ended. Those workers that we have visited from Liverpool Seafarers Centre describe feeling forgotten and abandoned. They are missing their families and their home life, and the isolation they feel from living in cramped ship conditions for such a lengthy period is impacting on their mental health.
“We also need to appreciate the detrimental effect this situation has on the families around the world, who are going through this challenging time without their loved ones. For those unable to get to work, there is the added blow of being unable to earn money, which will prove difficult in these troubling times. In the Philippines, for example, education is moving online but few have the necessary hardware to support this.
“We are calling on governments to do what they said they would and help these vital workers return home.”
IMO secretary general Kitack Lim made his statement on the state of the crisis ahead of the General Assembly on September 22.