If you are a seafarer stranded far from home what do you do? As one of the thousands of indispensable seafarers from developing countries caught in lockdowns enforced to limit the spread of COVID19 with no way home, where do you turn for help for you and your family?
“The outbreak of COVID-19 on a global scale has brought fear and uncertainty to key workers around the world. Those in the maritime sector have particular anxieties as they are displaced from home, friends, family and the other support mechanisms available to most. It has never been more important for these seafarers to have access to help in some form,” states Captain John Lloyd, Chief Executive of The Nautical Institute.
For those seafarers, the Seafarers Emergency Fund (SEF), established a number of years ago by UK-registered charity the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), can provide vital financial support during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through the SEF, seafarers and their families who are directly involved in sudden or unforeseen crises can access immediate, essential aid to cover expenses such as psychological counselling, medical bills, repatriation and other unexpected costs. Already, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the SEF has paid out four grants totalling US$35,048 (around £28,000) which has assisted 608 Indian and Filipino seafarers.
Roger Harris, ISWAN Executive Director, says “Many seafarers and their families are facing hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. ISWAN is providing support around the world, like delivering food packages to 550 stranded seafarers in Manila with funding from the Seafarers Emergency Fund.”
To support this vital financial lifeline, a group of maritime organisations has established a crowdfunding campaign to help these developing world seafarers and families most severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign has until May 4 to reach its £25,000 target.
As many of these developing country seafarers and their families are facing very uncertain times ahead the financial support is understandably of great importance, however there is also a message of support and hope that is being shared by supporting this campaign.
Gavin Allwright, Secretary General of the International Windship Association, says: “Much of the shipping industry are supporting their seafarers, these unseen and unsung heroes but unfortunately others do slip through the gaps and there is little in the way of a safety net, the SEF and ISWAN are helping those that do find themselves in dire need, and this sends a clear message of support.”