Seafarer suffering from stroke did not get immediate evacuation

Covid-19 restrictions must not be used to deny seafarers the right to medical care, or countries obligations under international law.

Baklan Dmitry, Master of the WL Palekh, first requested a medical evacuation from Indonesian authority for Alexey Kulibaba at 12:30 am on Saturday, April 18, after the seafarer showed signs of a stroke the day before.  This happened in international waters 225 kilometres from the island of Sumatra.  The seafarer’s condition worsened, and he exhibited signs of confusion, confused speech, pain under left shoulder, and left arm and leg paralysis.  

Although this was confirmed by a doctor from Global Voyager Assistance, Indonesian authorities including immigration and a local Covid-19 Task Force, refused a second attempt from the Master for permission to provide medical evacuation due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Despite repeated requests from the vessel’s Master, the Seafarers’ Union of Russia (SUR) and Indonesia seafarers’ union, Kesatuan Pelaut Indonsia (KPI), local authorities continued to reject appeals for emergency medical assistance. 

On Sunday 19 Apr, KPI received confirmation that the vessel could enter the Port of Belawan to facilitate the medical transfer.  But, six hours before the vessel’s arrival, the Harbor Master informed the Master that the decision had been reversed and advised him proceed to Singapore.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) called on the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to urgently intervene and request the Indonesian Government to respect international conventions to provide the seafarer with immediate medical attention.  

They quickly intervened and contacted respective governmental representatives, and the medical evacuation was finally provided around 9 pm local time on 20 Apr. 

“The Indonesian Government should have immediately facilitated the evacuation of this critically ill seafarer and provided the lifesaving medical attention that he desperately needed.  We sincerely hope that his health hasn’t been further jeopardized by the delay,” said Jacqueline Smith, ITF maritime coordinator.

“Covid-19 restrictions must not be used to deny seafarers the right to medical care and treatment, or countries obligations under international law.” 

As a signatory to the ILO Maritime Labor Convention (MLC), the Government of Indonesia is obliged to provide emergency medical assistance and ‘prompt medical help and evacuation at sea for the seriously ill or injured on board a ship’.

SUR president ,Yury Sukhorukov, said: “We want to sincerely thank the KPI and the ITF for their assistance, and the ILO and IMO for their urgent intervention. Without their support we might not have succeeded in securing the lifesaving emergency evacuation and medical care.

Sukhorukov reinforced that no country should use the current coronavirus crisis to ignore its obligations to provide urgent medical assistance to any seafarer in need.

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