World Maritime University urges the world to acknowledge seafarers are essential
As facilitators of global supply chains, seafarers are constantly subjected to acute strain and exhaustion, not to mention remaining stranded at sea for long periods. Seafarers’ mental health is also gradually gaining worldwide attention, fueled by COVID-19’s devastation.
Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President of World Maritime University, said: “Seafarers are key workers, and essential to keep global commerce running, to ensure food and fuel are delivered when and where needed. There are a few countries that have taken action (to help enact crew changes), but we still have the majority of the countries who have not done so.”
The seafarers’ campaign
Unfortunately, its inertia remains despite the pressing need to address the situation. A silver lining is the United Nation General Assembly’s concurring the notion urging all countries to designate seafarers and other marine personnel as key workers, encouraging governments to ensure safe ship crew changes and travel, releasing stranded seafarers and aid repatriation.
In a statement, International Maritime Organisation (IMO)’s Secretary-General Kitack Lim, noted, “Sadly, hundreds of thousands of seafarers, who are vital to maintaining supply chains, remain stranded at sea for months beyond their contracted time. This is causing immense strain, fatigue and exhaustion and is unsustainable. This is a human rights issue. He added that seafarers’ lives are thwarted 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. Despite this, the U.N. is unable to mandate action, though it can intensify political pressure.
Championing the movement, Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry stressed, “Shipping is indispensable to world trade, and to people’s daily lives. This is a wake-up call about the important role that seafarers play.”