Ecumenical charity Liverpool Seafarers Centre has called on the UK government and shipping lines to follow the lead of New Zealand and allocate greater funding for seafarers centres.
The government of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has pledged to pursue legislation to fund seafarers centres in its ports, allowing government port fees to be used to care for seafarers.
The Crosby charity believes this approach should be followed in the UK due to the continuing COVID-19 situation, which has left about 400,000 seafarers stranded at sea due to travel restrictions.
Seafarers working on ships have been forced to work long beyond their contracts, with another 400,000 stuck at home unable to get to work to support their families.
With no end in sight, charity chief executive John Wilson believes more provision should be in place at ports to offer support to seafarers when they leave their vessels.
He has made continuous calls during the pandemic for governments to designate seafarers as key workers to allow them greater rights by removing restrictions on flights, travel and medical care, as well as implementing protocols to allow safe crew changes, echoing calls made by the International Maritime Organization.
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.
New Zealand was prompted to act after a study highlighted the challenges facing the country’s charity-operated seafarer facilities, which said seafarers arriving in its ports did not always have access to a warm and secure building with essential welfare facilities. The report stated that some existing centres were too small to serve all those arriving in a port, particularly when cruise ships were docked.
LSC gains funding from shipping lines via a voluntary levy paid by those operating in the Port of Liverpool and Manchester Ship Canal to fund welfare support. Similar seafarers centres operating in ports around the world are also funded through port levies.
Mr Wilson said: “We are pleased to hear of the New Zealand government turning its attention to the plight of seafarers by offering greater support when they are in ports.
“It is clear that the coronavirus pandemic is not going away quickly so we need to make sure that those seafarers that are serving on ships are provided for when they do go ashore.
“Seafarers work tirelessly to bring supplies to our shores and it is only right that they have the time and space to spend some down time outside of their duties on board. Seafarers centres like our also offer support in the form of access to Wi-Fi, money exchange and emotional support, as well as acting as a mediator between seafarers and their employers.
“We believe passionately that the UK government should be following New Zealand’s lead and we also call for shipping companies to go further to support the wellbeing of their crews.”