Till lobbyists’ values are aligned with that of authorities’, shore leave is still a luxury
The reality of seafarers onboard beyond extended periods is not new, neither are the strong advocating from various maritime bodies. However, the biggest misalignment between advocates and government authorities needs to be addressed.
Lobbyists versus government authorities
Many shipowners, charterers and operators are strongly encouraged in almost every shape and form to extend shore leave to their crew. Some even emphasised on the importance of having a valid visa to back the Seaman’s Book. There are plenty to be preached, encouraged, enforced or cajoled. Till all parties are on the same page, worldwide seafarers will assume shore leave remains unattainable (for now).
In light of the outbreak situation, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) issued a COVID-19-themed Seafarer Shore-Leave Principles. It highlighted the principles for providing seafarers shore leave while navigating draconian travel restrictions across the globe. The book covered almost everything from Maritime Labour Convention clauses, International Labour Organization’s (ILO) appeals to flag states, employers’ needing to play their parts providing access to vaccines, practising safe distancing and implementing every safety precautions needed.
After a long list of principles to underscore the importance of seafarers’ wellbeing, the book unfortunately remains a toothless appeal. When there is a clear distinction between priorities across activists and government bodies, no amount of lobbying is going to make any dent.
Pandemic-induced border restrictions are subjected to each nation’s perspective on their grasp of the outbreak and confidence in containing the spread. There are countless layers of considerations before extending shore leaves to the crew. Is the crew vaccinated? Have they been tested? Did they present their results within the time line before arrival? Upon arrival, would the crew be required to be quarantined before being “released” for shore leave? Moreover, does the duration of the ship’s docking allow shore leave?
Shore leave enforcement should never be one-sided. It is alarming that these appeals are seemingly directed at only employers. If the latter had the means to implement this, it would require the cooperation of government authorities. Have the bodies recognised that?
Crewing Online News Team
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