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UN's ILO seeks 'key worker' status for seafarers during pandemic

THE UN'S International Labour Organisation says 150,000 seafarers are stranded on ships worldwide due to Covid-19 pandemic and should be given the status 'key workers' so they can return home

11 June 2020 - 19:06

THE UN'S International Labour Organisation says 150,000 seafarers are stranded on ships worldwide due to Covid-19 pandemic and should be given the status 'key workers' so they can return home.

The ILO has urged governments, immigration, health, and maritime authorities to work together to recognise seafarers as 'key workers' who ensure the flow of trade and the movement of vital medical supplies, safety equipment, food and other critical goods during the pandemic.



Referring to the provisions of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006, the ILO has called on governments to adopt without delay all possible measures to facilitate crew changes and the repatriation of seafarers, while taking steps to minimise the risk of contagion.



More than a month after the ILO issued warnings, at the end of April, about the plight of seafarers refused permission to leave their ships, limited progress has been achieved and, according to the ILO, the situation is worsening by the day.



Many of those onboard completed their tours more than four months ago but with contracts extended exceptionally because of the crisis, many are now reported to be experiencing mental health problems and physical exhaustion, which is reducing their ability to safely carry on.



'Forcing exhausted seafarers to continue working more than four months beyond the end of their contract is unacceptable. This jeopardizes their health and endangers maritime safety. We call on governments to work together to make these crew changes happen in safety,' said ILO director general Guy Ryder.



Meanwhile, the restrictions on crew changes, brought in by countries to reduce the spread of Covid-19, have meant that seafarers waiting to return to the sea have lost their income.



'I urge member states to recognise seafarers as 'key workers' and adopt the urgently-needed measures that will enable those who have been working hard to keep us supplied with medicines, food and other necessities, to go home and be replaced by fresh crews,' said Mr Ryder.



'Forcing exhausted seafarers to continue working more than four months beyond the end of their contract is unacceptable. This jeopardises their health and endangers maritime safety. Action is needed now to ensure decent work for seafarers, avoid maritime accidents and environmental disasters. We call on governments to work together to make these crew changes happen in safety,' he said.


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