COVID-19 Outbreak causes serious risk for seafarers mental health

Harun Şişmanyazıcı, Vice President of the Maritime Safety Association, said that the uncertainty of the process affects the soul world of the person rather than long stay on the ship, and that the ship's employees were negatively affected by the lack of clarity in when they could return home rather than long stay on the ship.

COVID-19 Outbreak causes serious risk for seafarers mental health
28 May 2020 - 11:03 - Update: 28 May 2020 - 12:03


Harun Şişmanyazıcı, Vice President of the Maritime Safety Association, said that the uncertainty of the process affects the soul world of the person rather than long stay on the ship, and that the ship's employees were negatively affected by the lack of clarity in when they could return home rather than long stay on the ship.

In his statement, Harun Şişmanyazıcı explained that the concentration weakness and risk of making mistakes caused by excessive fatigue caused by long time working on the ship threatens maritime transportation, which plays a key role in the realization of the supply chain as well as the safety of life and property at sea.

The world economy is shrinking

Şişmanyazıcı stated that the epidemic, which affected the world and affected life negatively since December 2019, created social, economic and psychological problems, the world economy will shrink by 3.2 percent in 2020, the global unemployment rate will be 17 percent, and the world trade will be 13-32 percent in quantity. He stated that it was estimated that it would contract 11 percent in monetary terms.

‘’As well known, world has been facing very serious and deadly disease. This outbreak has been our life since december 2019, and effected our social , private and working life adversly. Covid -19 a virüs which can lead to respiratory disease and pneumonia.

213 countries and territories around the world have reported total 5.306.158 confirmed cases of the coronavirus/covid-19 that orginated from China, and total of 350.040 death basis date of 23. May 2020.

We have not been able to get rid of this outbreak yet. Also we dont know how and when we will able to do this. İt means there is uncertainity in this respect.’’

Restrictions and regulations leave ship personnel stranded on ships

Summarizing the current situation, Şişmanyazıcı reminded the seafarers 'psychology that the seafarers' psychology is getting worse day by day, and reminded the personnel who remained on the ship despite the contract. He said that although international organizations emphasize the necessity of 150,000 seaman changes every month, the continuation of governments' restrictions has badly affected the ship's personnel and thus the supply chain.

‘’This pandemic effecting life at sea, beside at shore life. Today 1.2 Million seafarers on board of commercial ships sailing across the world. It is estimated that 200.000 of said total crew members with expired work contracts have been forced into continued their job on board without leaving the ship in order to act comply with the demands of government that have closed the borders and not permit crew changing in their some ports. It means that seafarers trapped at sea due to covid-19 lockdowns.

Many countries insist on keeping global shipping lines open since world need mobilization of the goods and services and dont like any cut on continuation of supply chain but governments not appreciate same need for the mobilization of the crew which carry out realization of the supply chain. Maritime organization to urge governments to exempt crew members from travel bans ,but without any sucses. Many of these seafarers have been experiencing adverse effect on their mental health and reduce ability to safely perform their roles in the face of increasing fatal fatigue.

According to IMO ; shipping is vital to the maintenance of global supply chains, but the current situations is unsustainable for the safety and wellbeing of ship crew and the safe operation of maritime trade. Each month about 150.000 seafarers need to be changed over to and from the ships which they operate to ensure compliance with international maritime regulations for ensuring safety, crew health and welfare and the preventation of fatigue

ITF and ICS joint press release want to draw attention of the world to this matter. They emphasızed that keeping crew on board is also against UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights that are built on the fundemental obligation of governments to protect rights holders,which applies both under normal circumstances and at the time of this kind of crises.

The problem is uncertainty, not long stay on board

Physical and mental health, wellbeing of seafarers is not new subject, shipping community dealing with this matter, and they have been talking about mental health problems of some seafarers for a very long time. As well as seafarers are not first time stay on board so long tıme, 15-20 years ago they were staying on board may be more than 12 months. But now the situation is different compare to conditions of that days. As well as characteristic of this outbreak is different, main disconfort of seafarers is uncertainty on when they will able to sleep at their home together wıth their family and personel feeling that they are not able to care their family and loved person under this uncovenient covid-19 living conditions, lack of information, hesitation about their life. Also their families hesitate for the seafarers since they are on board so long tıme while this outbreak creates big risk for their life.

Apart from this negative side, Covid -19 also could be create positive environment for seafarer’s thıs long standing problems,since shore based persons also stuck at home and they are not allowed to go out. They can evaluate seafearers this problem better than before since they are more or less under same conditions with in last 6 months.

Saefarers mentioned mental health problem not only effect his/her confort,but also on board working conditons and safety of vessel , cargo and life on board. Other words it is related to all of us, and we have to pay attention on this matter for the benefit of all concerning parties(stake holders)

Most common covid-19 related problems reported by seafarers is difficulty on repetration. This is also main reason of stress of seafarers which effects mental health and psychology of them. As well as stress is the main reason of collapse of the immune system. This is good stiuation for the covid-19 to enter into suitable cell of this person and make him/her sick.

But this effect could be change person to person,some may get very effected, but others not so much. Therefore ,apart from general precautions, the measures to be taken may vary from person to person. It could be changes in some saefarers compare to tıme before outberak. This stressed person should not be permitted to isolate temselves. From the shipping companies point of view, it is important to communicate with the seafarers family and seafarers and informing them about each others continously. In thıs type of crises,most valuable thing for the seafarers is knowing what is going on their home and family. At the same time ,shipowners should reassure seafarers that they have been doing for their families on their behalf more than they could have done if they were at home.

In Turkey most of the Turkish ship owners has been rendering endevour to do their best on this matter like other ship owning companies. Also most of them ,especially container lines do not like to keep seafarers on board more than 6 month. They disregard how much it cost to them for the crew change, but governmental restriction ,special bans, which is out of their control not permit shipowners what they have to do for seafarers in order to eleminate above mentioned risks.

Global industry associations and IMO are aware of this problem and they have been doing their utmost in order to solve it.





The crew has prepared a protocol to open the way for crew changes

In this context,on the date of 5 May 2020 ,IMO as addition to their previous recommendations,circulated a new recommendation circular named Coronavirus(Covid-19)-Recommended Framework of Protocols for Ensuring Ship Crew Changes and Travel During The Coronovirus(Covid-19)Pandemic.

This framework of protocols proposed to the IMO General Secretary by a broad cross section of global industry associations in consultatative status with in organization representing the maritime transportation sector as fallows; ICS, IAPH, BIMCO,IFSMA, INTERTANKO, PandI Clubs, CLIA, INTERCARGO, INTERMANAGERS, IPTA, IMCA,INTERFERRY ,FONASBA and WSC.

As the Maritime Safety Association, we support the Framework Protocol

IMO Secretary General supports these protocols, and informed the member states about said protocols and urges their implementation. As weel as invited member states and international organizations to make use of this framework and to disseminate it among relevant national authorities with responsibility, interalia,for maritime issues, health,customs, immigration, border control, seaport and civil aviation aviation authorities, and to liaise with relevant national authorities with respect the use and implementation of thie framework,as appropirate.

Turkish Maritime Safety Associations also supports this initiative ,and believes that it will work and help solving of seafarers and shipowners above mentioned problems.


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