As the coronavirus pandemic takes a new turn with rising cases of infections from the new strain of the virus, seafarers are facing a troubling situation unable to leave their ships because of covid restrictions.
Hence to address this shipping companies have come together to help the seafarers stuck at sea. Around 300 firms have joined hands to free stranded sailors. The firms recognize the hardship of living in a ship for long which can put the seafarers’ life at risk as their safety and mental health concerns loom.
Not just shipping, companies from mining and trading sectors have also decided to join hands to work for these seafarers stuck on ships for months and working like this might create more dangers at sea.
Most of the world trade, about 90% is done by maritime trade and with the covid restrictions this trade is getting affected the most which is pressurizing the global supply chains.
Although seafarers were designated as key workers by most countries after the UN General Assembly’s call for action back in December yet ship crews are struggling to get released as the crew change crisis continues.
Officials from the industry reveal the dire situation where many are at the brink of collapse over their prolonged stay at ships. Most of them are serving beyond the 11 month contract period laid down by the maritime labour convention.
At present shipping companies like Maersk, miners like Anglo American, Rio Tinto, oil giants like BP and Shell along with trading companies like Trafigura, Vitol and Cargill have joined hands to boost information sharing as signatories of the Neptune Declaration.
“All of us have a duty of care to seafarers,” said Kit Kernon, the global head of shipping at Vitol. “Their wellbeing is essential to safe and efficient operations.”
Being on a ship for long and taking care of cargoes is a stressful job which risks their physical and mental well-being. Crews always look forward to term end and dread contract extension. In such a scenario this is a nightmare for them.
Vessels and crew abandonments are even more hazardous and increase their suffering. 2020 saw a rise in abandonments with nearly 90% ships being abandoned with their crew.
The signatories of the declaration have agreed to facilitate collaboration between shipping operators and charterers so that crew change procedures can be sped up. This will go on along with designating mariners as key workers.
“We are witnessing a humanitarian crisis at sea,” said Jeremy Nixon, the chief executive of shipping group ONE. “They have become hostage of the situation and unable to disembark from their ships.”
The Senior Vice President of VP, Sven Boss-Walker, said the “remote nature of their roles meant their contributions are often out of sight and out of mind”.
“It is critical that the industry comes together to provide a collaborative response,” Ashley Howard of Tinto added.