The International Labour Organisation, ILO, has called for urgent and coordinated action to release the 150,000 to 200,000 seafarers trapped on board ships around the world at the backdrop of measures applied by countries to contain the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic.
The ILO has urged governments, immigration, health and maritime authorities to work together to recognise seafarers as ‘key workers’ who ensure the flow of trade and the movement of vital medical supplies, safety equipment, food and other critical goods during the pandemic.
Referring to provisions of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, the ILO in a statement in Geneva, Switzerland, called on governments to adopt without delay all possible measures to facilitate crew changes and the repatriation of seafarers, while taking steps to minimize the risk of contagion.
More than a month after the ILO issued warnings about the plight of seafarers refused permission to leave their ships, limited progress has been achieved and, according to the ILO, the situation is worsening by the day.
Many of those on board completed their tours of duty more than four months ago but with contracts extended exceptionally because of the crisis, many are now reported to be experiencing mental health issues and physical exhaustion, which is reducing their ability to safely carry out their duties. Meanwhile, the restrictions on crew changes, brought in by countries to reduce the spread of COVID-19, have meant that seafarers waiting to return to sea have lost their income.
“I urge member states to recognise seafarers as “key workers” and adopt the urgently-needed measures that will enable those who have been working hard to keep us supplied with medicines, food and other necessities, to go home and be replaced by fresh crew.
Forcing exhausted seafarers to continue working more than four months beyond the end of their contract is unacceptable. This jeopardises their health and endangers maritime safety. Action is needed now to ensure decent work for seafarers, avoid maritime accidents and environmental disasters. We call on governments to work together to make these crew changes happen in safety,” Director General of ILO, Guy Ryder, said.
Source: Voice of Nigeria