Officials from 12 countries including the U.S. requested urgent worldwide action in resolving the humanitarian crisis of the 200,000 seafarers stranded at sea because crew changes are impossible due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a virtual gathering of the International Maritime Summit of Crew Changes on July 9, the representatives from the 12 countries expressed concerns over ship operators’ challenges in conducting safe and necessary crew changes. Many of the seafarers have been at sea for more than a year and are battling fatigue and mental illness.
Action needed to help fatigued shipping workers
The countries that signed a joint statement are Denmark, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the U.S.
The Philippines and Indonesia are among the five countries that provide the world’s largest numbers of seafarers, according to the International Chamber of Shipping. China, Russia and Ukraine, also on that list, have yet to sign on.
The joint statement asks that all International Maritime Organization (IMO) countries designate seafarers as essential workers, while ensuring safe crew changes during the COVID-19 crisis. The statement also addresses issues such as waivers and exemptions related to visa requirements as well as a need to boost seafarers’ access to airline flights to and from their countries of origin.
Many of these seafarers in the past have arrived at the Port of New York and New Jersey, which is among our country’s biggest seaports. Seafarers bring ashore cargo such as petroleum, automobiles and food. They typically work every day for up to 12 hours. When the COVID-19 crisis struck, a number of seafarers agreed to work for more extended periods to ensure the global supply chain was not disrupted. However, the longer hours with no breaks have taken a toll.