The International Labour Organization (ILO) is calling on governments and other stakeholders to work together to facilitate crew changes to get over 150,000 seafarers off ships.
ILO News said 150,000 to 200,000 seafarers were trapped on board ships around the world because of measures to contain covid19. It resulted in people who completed their contracts more than four months ago being forced to continue working because they did not have permission to leave their ships. The measures also resulted in the loss of income to those who were to replace those onboard.
The ILO urged governments, immigration, health and maritime authorities to work together to recognise seafarers as "key workers" as they ensure the flow of trade and the movement of critical goods during the pandemic. Governments were asked to allow them to return to and leave their countries to facilitate crew changes while taking steps to minimise the risk of contagion.
It also said many people were reportedly experiencing mental health issues and physical exhaustion, thereby reducing their ability to carry out their duties safely.
ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said, “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.”
The call for key worker status for seafarers was underlined in a joint statement issued on May 22 by the International Civil Aviation Organization, International Maritime Organization and the ILO. This would exempt crews from travel restrictions and facilitate their joining or leaving ships.