Seafarers are exposed to COVID-19 just like any other frontline and essential staff. They therefore should be properly protected with suitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before someone died from a lack of health protection. Lee Kok Leong, executive editor, Maritime Fairtrade, reports
According to Human Rights at Sea, seafarers are increasingly requesting for suitable PPE, including face masks and gloves, to be made more widely available, not just for themselves, but for those maritime workers who come onboard their vessels including surveyors, agents, pilots and stevedores.
At the present moment, it is understandable that high quality PPE may not be widely available, but consideration should be given to seafarers and maritime workers. Ships and vessels are highly susceptible to outbreak, given the precedents of the Diamond Princess cruise ship and USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, among others.
In a recent case, the Master of MV Tomini Destiny refused to offload at the Port of Chittagong, Bangladesh because of concerns over a lack of PPE and unscreened local stevedores. The Master asked for PPE to be made available for his crew during ongoing shipboard operations, as well as for remote offloading by barges away from port wharves. The owners responded and issued the crew with comprehensive PPE, and sanctioned the offloading in outer anchorages as part of the compromise.
Joining in the call to support seafarers, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the International Maritime Health Association (IMHA) have highlighted the essential need for seafarers to be properly protected. The ITF stating that there is the need for putting health and safety first, while the IMHA stated there should be facial protection for all crew and they should be given five pieces each.
Under UK law, shipowners must provide the requisite PPE at no cost to the employee mariner.