Global action urged to treat seafarers as key workers

The seafarers, who were among the world’s keyworkers are now facing humanitarian crisis, as hundreds of thousands have remained stranded at sea, demanding for crew change.

In celebration of the Day of the Seafarer, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has declared seafarers and other marine personnel as “key workers” and has called on all countries to recognize them as front liners and ensure that crew change would be a top priority.

The 10th anniversary of the Day of the Seafarer (DotS), today, June 25, 2020 has a campaign theme, “#SeafarersAreKeyWorkers.

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) has echoed the calls of IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim Kitack Lim on the repatriation of seafarers.

“The Secretary-General is concerned about the growing humanitarian and safety crisis facing seafarers around the world. As a result of COVID-related travel restrictions, hundreds of thousands of the world’s two million seafarers have been stranded at sea for months. Unable to get off ships, the maximum sea time stipulated in international conventions is being ignored, with some seafarers marooned at sea for 15 months,” ITF said.

ITF added that governments around the world, were asked to urgently implement protocols, allowing stranded seafarers to repatriate and for other crew to join ships.

IMO has worked with the United Nations agencies, including the International Labor Organization, International Chamber of Shipping and ITF to develop protocols for crew changeovers, while taking the necessary public health concerns.

“This year, we are in the unprecedented situation of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Ships are continuing to trade, and most ports are still open to deliver and load vital supplies. But the global pandemic has plunged many seafarers into desperate situations,” IMO Secretary General Lim said.

He said seafarers were the unsung heroes of the global economy, whose work is physically and mentally demanding, lonely and remote.

“I have been amazed and impressed with the dedication, professionalism, resilience and perseverance of seafarers as they have faced the inability to conduct crew changes, inability to be repatriated, inability to get passports and visas to get to and from their ships, lack of access to medical care, lack of personal protective equipment and denial of shore leave-all as a result of well-intentioned efforts to protect public health and safety, but with overly restrictive consequences to shipping.

Despite all these challenges, seafarers have stayed on the job, 24/7,” Lim said.

Lim has sent letters to all the Member Governments, urging them to recognize all seafarers as “key workers”.

“Seafarers’ work is unique and essential. Just like other key workers, seafarers are on the front line in this global fight. They deserve our thanks. But they also need –and deserve –quick and decisive humanitarian action from governments everywhere, not just during the pandemic, but at all times. That’s why our 2020 campaign theme is “#SeafarersAreKeyWorkers”,” Lim said.

IMO reiterated its global call for proper recognition –and action –for seafarers. Seafarers continue to deliver for all of us. ‘Now, let’s ensure that we deliver for them!”

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