IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim issued a message to seafarers who are facing difficulties as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic
Mr Lim said IMO understands the unique problems seafarers face during the coronavirus pandemic and has been in contact with trade unions, seafarer welfare organisations, shipowners, governments, ILO and other UN agencies to try and find solutions to these problems.
He added “I have written to all our member states, urging them to recognise all seafarers as ‘key workers’, remove any barriers to your documentation and lift national travel restrictions so you can get home on conclusion of your contracts, and re-join your families. And members of my team here at IMO have been working round the clock to help bring individual cases to a speedy resolution.”
IMO said estimates show that roughly 100,000 seafarers complete their contracts every month and would normally be repatriated but the coronavirus has had a negative impact on the repatriation process.
Hundreds of ship sailings have been cancelled as trade has slowed and ports all over the world have either closed or drastically cut their operations. As nationals have issued restrictions on travel and personal movement, many seafarers have been left stranded on board ships, unable to disembark or be replaced by relief crews.
Others find themselves stuck in hotels, without pay and unable to get flights home.
In late March, IMO issued a circular suggesting governments designate professional seafarers and marine personnel, regardless of nationality, as ’key workers’ providing an essential service. This designation would help remove barriers to seafarers’ documentation and lift national travel restrictions and make repatriation possible.
There is also an ongoing crowdfunding campaign to support developing word seafarers and their families impacted by the pandemic.
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