The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) announced the repatriation of 600 i-Kiribati seafarers
The ordeal of 600 stranded seafarers finally came to an end with the intervention of the ICS. The final six returned home on 9 May 2022, marking the end of a two-year repatriation effort led by a coalition of employers, unions and non-governmental organisation (NGO) working with the Kiribati government.
Kiribati’s zero-COVID policy
The Kiribati government also implemented a ‘zero-covid’ policy, resulting in lockdowns to inbound travel. Employers began housing the i-Kiribati crew in Denmark and Germany in early 2021 as their contracts matured. Seafarers were provided accommodation by their employers while awaiting a change in Kiribati’s border protocols. They have also received their full dose of the vaccine if they had not been while on contract.
Repatriation efforts commenced in November 2020, with seafarers arranged to return in groups. 363 crew reportedly returned home as at April 2021 – through flights organised by the Kiribati government. In November 2021, 141 seafarers resumed employment. This year, some 73 seafarers returned in groups of 10 via chartered flights by the government, several employers and religious organisations. The remaining six will be completing their quarantine in a facility before being released.
Congratulatory from bodies
International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Secretary-General Kitack Lim remarked, “I am pleased to hear that these seafarers will finally be reunited with their loved ones, after being stranded overseas for nearly two years, thanks to extensive collaboration among all stakeholders in the industry, labour organisations, governments and the United Nations. Their stories of extended times at sea – and on land to get home have been repeated many times over throughout the pandemic. Seafarers need to be designated as key workers by all states, so that their travel and repatriation can be facilitated.”
Gaby Bornheim, President of Verband Deutscher Reeder (VDR) said: “It is a great relief to know all seafarers are safely home after more than two years. Responsible shipowners have worked hard to achieve this, even though none of the delays had been their fault. We are also happy to acknowledge that in the crisis we have experienced the firm social partnership with unions and NGOs, who were instrumental for the successful return. It would not have been possible without the tremendous support of international organisations such as International Labour Organisation (ILO) and IMO. It has proven that multilateralism is to the benefit of people.”
Crewing Online Media Team
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to contact the author for this article.