COVID-19: treat seafarers as key workers

MarineTraffic throws support behind Marshall Islands call for seafarers to be treated as key workers

MarineTraffic wholeheartedly endorses today’s call by the Marshall Islands, one of the world’s largest maritime registries, for seafarers to be recognised as key workers. This would mean that the travel bans and restrictions on crew changes enacted by so many countries to prevent the spread of COVID-19 could be lifted. 

The unforeseen consequence of this ban has been for seafarers to be stuck onboard, unable to return home at the end of their contract.

Seafarers typically spend many months away from their loved ones and preventing their repatriation is adding to their emotional stress and affecting their well-being. As a workforce, seafarers face some extremely tough conditions: isolation, cramped living quarters, noise, heat and storms can all be part of their everyday lives. We all rely on seafarers to move the world’s food, fuel, medicine and equipment. To many this is an invisible workforce, but we must do our best to support them in these tough times. 

We urge governments to recognise the contribution of seafarers towards keeping vital supply chains open, and to devise plans to allow them to board a designated ship and to be repatriated at the end of their contracts. Safe ships rely on well-supported seafarers.

A big part of the MarineTraffic community are our seafarers, their friends and their families. They use our service to track the ships that their loved ones are working on. 

We passionately believe in supporting the unsung heroes of the seas and are grateful to the year-round support given to them by charities such as the Sailors’ Society

MarineTraffic does its best to assist seafarers and we are proud supporters of the Sailors’ Society, providing them with data services to help with their day-to-day work with seafarers in more than 90 ports around the world.  

The charity, which has had to suspend its operations in ports due to the virus, is now offering virtual seafarer support with chaplains available online or over the phone, and has set up a Facebook community for seafarers affected by coronavirus.

It is launching an emergency appeal for funds in response to the crisis support #keyworkersofthesea

Sailors’ Society’s COO Sandra Welch said: “This is putting intolerable strain on seafarers’ mental and emotional health, at a time when we have been forced to pull our chaplains away from offering face-to-face support. 

But we will not abandon them. We are diverting the full resources of the charity to finding ways of supporting these men and women. Please, support our appeal and help these key workers of the sea when they need us the most.

Bill Lines
Bill is a director of London based maritime public relations firm Navigate PR and has been working with MarineTraffic since 2013.