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Sailors around the world stranded because of coronavirus pandemic

Globally many thousands of seafarers are stuck on their ships. They cannot go home because of the coronavirus crisis and the situation is creating a backlog in the global shipping industry.

Sailors around the world stranded because of coronavirus pandemic
15 July 2020 - 10:02 - Update: 15 July 2020 - 10:05

In the Arctic, a German research vessel drifts through the northern Arctic Ocean frozen in ice.

Named "Polarstern" it is an international expedition that is being followed with great interest. But in April the expedition had to be interrupted because the 100 scientists that were going to replace the ones on board could not come because of travel restrictions caused by COVID-19.

The problem was finally resolved after three weeks when two other research ships — Sonne and Maria S. Merian — took the replacement team from Bremerhaven, Germany, to Svalbard, Norway, after the scientists spent two weeks in quarantine.

'An unsustainable situation'

What worked relatively smoothly for a special international project cannot, however, be applied to the maritime sector in general. The German Shipowners' Association (VDR) complained about the precarious situation of sailors on the International Day of the Seafarer on June 25.

"It is an unsustainable situation that sufficient crew rotations are still not allowed," said Alfred Hartmann, a shipowner and president of the VDR. The association estimates that at the end of June, 200,000 sailors were waiting to be replaced while just as many were ashore waiting for their deployment.



In the past few weeks the situation has eased slightly though according to Maya Schwiegershausen-Lüth, a maritime expert at the Verdi union. But "even if the number of stranded people has been reduced, the topic is more pressing than ever," she told DW.

Estimates from the UN's International Maritime Organization and surveys by the International Transport Workers' Federation show that between "120,000 to 150,000 seafarers were still waiting to leave their jobs and go home," said Schwiegershausen-Güth. She also pointed to "a similarly large number of sailors who are waiting at home to return to work on board the ships."

Source: DW (Click for further of the article)

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