UN Adopts Seafarer Resolution as Union Calls for Home for the Holidays
The plight of seafarers caught at sea or unable to reach their ships to start work due to the travel restrictions and regulations related to the pandemic remains a concern for the organizations representing the seafarers. The United Nations General Assembly acted today to help the seafarers while one of the unions launched a new campaign tied to the upcoming holiday season.
In a resolution to address challenges faced by seafarers, the United Nations General Assembly on December 1 adopted a resolution calling on member states to designate seafarers and other marine personnel as key workers. Saying that it recognizes the need for an urgent and concrete response, the United Nations resolution calls for the implementation of relevant measures to allow stranded seafarers to be repatriated and others to join ships, and to ensure access to medical care. The resolution also encourages governments and relevant stakeholders to implement IMO-recognized protocols to ensure safe ship crew changes and travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Welcoming the adoption of the resolution, International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary-General Kitack Lim added, "I am grateful to those countries who have already taken steps to designate seafarers as key workers and to all UN agencies and industry partners who have been working tirelessly to find ways to resolve the difficult situation. This is a human rights issue. Seafarers' lives are being made impossible through the crew change difficulties and this can only have a detrimental effect on ship safety and on the supply chain, the longer the situation continues."
Shortly before the passage of the UN resolution, one of the leading maritime unions, Nautilus International, launched its own campaign to “deliver seafarers home for Christmas.” They noted that for many seafarers it would be their second holiday season at sea as they had gone to work before the pandemic was declared and the restrictions kept them on their ships.
Nautilus International reports that it has been inundated with requests for support from these seafarers, who have been dealing with issues such as exhaustion, redundancy, and cuts to pay and conditions. Many have either been stranded at sea, away from their loved ones, or trapped at home where they are unable to earn a living.
In a new campaign, the union is launching a petition that urges governments and the United Nations to work together to ensure that seafarers are designated as key workers in every country, and to allow global crew changes to take place.
“This year, the coronavirus pandemic has given rise to unprecedented levels of stress, fatigue and safety concerns due to countries closing their borders and preventing them from seeing loved ones. Now many of our members are left re-considering their very future in the industry,” said Nautilus International general secretary Mark Dickinson. “Normally at this time of year we remind people that seafarers deliver them Christmas. This year we are calling on everyone to deliver seafarers home for Christmas.”
Despite the efforts by some nations to facilitate crew changes, the IMO, unions and other organizations continue to estimate that hundreds of thousands of seafarers have found themselves caught on their ships far beyond the expirations of the contracts. A similar number is also caught at home unable to reach the ships to begin work and relieve the crew, many of whom went to sea before travel restrictions were imposed and borders and ports closed.