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As pandemic stretches on, concern for stranded seafarers grows

The mental well-being and safety of seafarers stuck aboard ships during the pandemic is reaching a breaking point as the months stretch on, warns an inspector in Halifax. 

As pandemic stretches on, concern for stranded seafarers grows
25 July 2020 - 10:36

The mental well-being and safety of seafarers stuck aboard ships during the pandemic is reaching a breaking point as the months stretch on, warns an inspector in Halifax. 

Some 300,000 seafarers are trapped aboard cargo ships and can't disembark or get home due to COVID-19 border and travel restrictions, according to the International Transport Workers' Federation.

Karl Risser, the federation's inspector in Atlantic Canada, said he's been receiving multiple complaints from crew members.

It's their job to live aboard ships and make sure goods, such as food and personal protective equipment, get safely around the world. 

Some workers have been on the job for 15 months, well past their contracts, which typically last between six and nine months, he said. 

"These are the forgotten heroes of COVID," Risser told CBC's Information Morning this week. "Their governments have forgotten them, everybody's kind of forgotten them, but they're keeping our supply chains going."

Risser, and others who advocate for the rights of seafarers, say COVID-19 has highlighted long-standing problems with the shipping industry, which is complex and highly globalized.

They want Canadians to understand the plight of these "invisible" essential workers, but also warn that solutions to the crisis won't be easy.

 

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