The Mission to Seafarers is highlighting the serious challenges faced by seafarers and calling for an urgent response.

London - In support of a joint plea from the from International Chamber of Shipping and the International Transport Workers Federation, The Mission to Seafarers is uniting with other maritime charities to call for recognition of the role of seafarers in providing essential international trade during the COVID-19 pandemic, as outlined in a letter from the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA) to the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization, Director General of the World Health Organization, Director General, United Nations International Labour Organization and Ministers of Transport for all national governments.

In these unprecedented times, seafarers remain at the front line, sustaining the essential global supply chains, including of food and medical supplies. However, unlike airline crew and medical staff who are considered international ‘key workers’, many seafarers are not recognised as such. With transit arrangements currently very difficult, many crew find themselves on extended contracts, often denied shore leave and unable to access welfare support at a time of great stress and anxiety. Without access to WiFi to contact their loved ones or the ability to return home, many are suffering. Others are unable to join ships to start new contracts, bringing financial hardship. The Mission is joining others in calling on governments and recognised authorities to prioritise the facilitation of crew changes and the effective support of seafarers.

Effective welfare provision in ports is currently difficult. The Mission to Seafarers is prioritising best practice and is taking all necessary measures to prevent virus spread within ports and especially to crew. While we are having to operate at a much-reduced level, we are committed to the maintenance of elements of key service wherever possible. The Mission is calling for the continued ability of seafarers to access remaining shore-based services within appropriate and safe parameters.

Rev Canon Andrew Wright, Secretary General for Mission to Seafarers and Chairman of ICMA, commented “These are hugely stressful and challenging times for seafarers. There are serious consequent threats to mental health and well-being, as well as to the safe operation of ships and the effective continuity of the maritime trade on which we all depend. Governments and authorities must do all they can to facilitate effective seafarer transit and promote the effective support of this vital and heroic workforce.”

"The Mission to Seafarers is working urgently on digital alternatives to provide enhanced remote welfare services where WiFi is available. It is collaborating with other maritime charities to ensure we can help in every way possible. Whether it is port pilots checking in with crew, or leaflets provided on gangway visits, we need to ensure we are doing everything possible to support these key workers in their essential role, now more than ever.”