Covid-19 has disrupted all of our lives, perhaps no one more so than our seafarers
Hundreds of thousands of seafarers continue to toil away ensuring the flow of food, medicines, clothes, energy and essential supplies, while they themselves are trapped on board for months at a time unable to see their own homes, families and friends.
As we mark the Day of the Seafarer on 25 June, it is clear the maritime industry needs to step up for seafarers, just as they step up for us every day. We can start the process by listening to their concerns. In this regard, the results of a series of polls taken by IMO on social media point to some of the major issues that need to be addressed.
Responding to a poll, ’In light of the Covid-19 impact on seafaring, what is most important for your future as a seafarer?’ 41% responded ‘guaranteed access to repatriation and crew change’, 24% ‘priority vaccinations’, 19% ‘safe working conditions’ and 16% ‘enforcement of the MLC’.
Another poll asked, ’How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed the future of seafaring?’ 72% respondents chose ‘for worse’, 15% ‘for better’ and 13% ‘it is the same’.
In response to, ’What area most needs improvement to ensure a fair future for seafarers?’ 45% said ‘working conditions’, 30% ‘salaries’, 13% ‘training’ and 12% ‘safety on board’.
When asked, ’Do you know what to do if you find yourself in need of help while on board?’ 66% responded ‘yes, I know who to contact’, 18% ‘not sure where to look’, and 6% ‘no, I have no idea’.
The maritime industry needs to move on diversity, according to the results of another poll. ’Do you think the maritime sector is doing enough to encourage diversity?’ 41% responded ‘no, not enough is being done’, 37% ’yes, but more could be done’, 14% ‘yes, a lot is being done’ and 8% ‘this is not important to me’.
Seafarers do not believe these issues and others should be addressed by shipping companies alone. Responding to, ’Who should be responsible for a fair future for seafarers?’ 54% answered ‘shared responsibility’, 31% ‘IMO/ILO/governments’, 12% ‘shipping companies’ and 3% ‘seafarers themselves’.
As is clear with many complex issues facing the maritime sector, addressing seafarer concerns regarding crew change and repatriation, vaccinations, training, diversity and salaries need to be addressed by maritime stakeholders through collaboration. Let’s start with governments recognising seafarers as essential workers and supporting vaccination programmes, and governments, shipowners and charterers working together to facilitate safe crew changes. If the pandemic proved anything, it is that seafarers are essential to our lives… not just on 25 June, but every day.
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