300,000 seafarers trapped at sea

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) estimates that there are now approximately 300,000 seafarers trapped working aboard ships due to the crew change crisis caused by government Covid-19 border and travel restrictions, and an equal number of unemployed seafarers waiting to join them who are ashore. That makes 600,000 seafarers affected by this crisis.

It has been one month since the ITF told the world’s governments that ‘Enough is Enough’ and that the federation and its affiliates would be assisting the world’s seafarers in enforcing their right to stop working, get off and be repatriated to their homes and families, following completion of their contracts.

ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton says in the month since July 15 there has been some positive movement, but too little progress has been made by governments to bring in the practical exemptions and protocols needed to support functioning crew changes across the world.

“300,000 seafarers are trapped working aboard these vessels another 300,000 are facing financial ruin at home, desperate to relieve these ships and start earning wages again. Governments are the biggest barrier to resolving the growing crew change crisis,” said Cotton.

“Governments must wake up and realize that without a return to successful crew changes, it is simply not sustainable or acceptable to have a growing number of tired and fatigued seafarers trapped working aboard the world’s ships endangering themselves, their vessels and our maritime environment.

“Seafarers and their unions are deeply concerned about the risk to life, property and the environment as the chances of a major catastrophe or catastrophes rises daily. Governments must act before we see more people die, or worse – a major maritime disaster. Urgent action is required.”

Chair of the ITF Seafarers Section, Dave Heindel, said: “It is not acceptable that some countries have withdrawn shore leave for seafarers or began restricting the number of people allowed to enter their borders each day. Those countries that rely on maritime trade, like Australia and Russia – must start pulling their weight on this issue.

“The ITF family will also be calling out any attempts to intimidate or blacklist seafarers for either exercising their human right to stop working and be repatriated once their contract has finished, and we will defend them from any attempts to blame them for the inevitable consequences of the worlds’ fleet operating with an increasingly tired, fatigued crew.”

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