Ecumenical charity Liverpool Seafarers Centre is calling on the United Nations to make World Maritime Day, on Thursday 24th September, a time of action for seafarers stranded by the pandemic.
The Crosby charity has renewed its calls to repatriate seafarers stuck at sea, echoing the International Maritime Organization’s plea to governments ahead of the UN General Assembly meeting.
The centre has warned of the devastating impact on the mental health of those still stuck on ships due to coronavirus travel restrictions.
The UN marked its 75th anniversary on Monday when the virtual General Assembly began, with a debate on global governance post-COVID-19 due to take place on Thursday, September 24 – World Maritime Day.
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 remember in their prayers those who make a living from the sea as well as lobbying their MP to act to end their plight.
Shipping minister Robert Courts MP has told Mr Wilson he hopes to visit Liverpool in the coming months, subject to lockdown restrictions, and intends to visit Liverpool Seafarers Centre to discuss the crisis and witness the valuable work being done.
Mr Wilson spoke last week as the IMO 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.
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, but Mr Wilson said those countries have been too slow to act.
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: “Six months into the pandemic, we see no end in sight for the thousands of seafarers trapped on board ships long beyond the time their contracts should have ended. This World Maritime Day, the theme is ‘sustainable shipping for a sustainable planet’ and, along with the measures proposed by the International Maritime Organization – such as cutting greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the sulphur content of ships’ fuel oil and enhancing the participation of women in the maritime community – we call on the UN to do all it can to sustain this vital industry by designating seafarers as key workers.
“The pandemic has highlighted how essential these roles are, with the shipping industry continuing to transport medical supplies, food and other goods while many of us stayed at home. They helped us and now these hundreds of thousands of seafarers need our help to help them get home.
“The seafarers we have visited from Liverpool Seafarers Centre describe feeling forgotten and abandoned, left missing their relatives and living in cramped conditions. Just last week, we saw a crew leave Liverpool for home after 366 days at sea – a situation that is completely unacceptable.
“We are calling on governments to do what they said they would and help these vital workers return home.”
About Liverpool Seafarers Centre
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.