Statement from Sailors’ Society CEO Sara Baade:

“We strongly support the UN’s call on governments to take action to avert a humanitarian disaster for seafarers.

The joint statement, from several UN specialized agencies, identifies actions taken by many governments that limit or prevent ship operators from conducting crew changes during the global pandemic as ‘the single most pressing maritime operational challenge to the safe and efficient movement of global trade’.

The UN has made a number of recommendations for specific actions governments can now take to alleviate the problem, starting with officially recognising seafarers as ‘key workers’ providing an essential service, to facilitate safe and unhindered embarkation and disembarkation from their ships.

The situation has become critical, with 300,000 crews stranded at sea – some with their contracts extended beyond 17 months – and an equal number unemployed at home. This is a global crisis, which needs urgent resolution.

The UN statement correctly shines a spotlight on the devastating impact this is having on the men and women we rely on to keep global trade moving: ‘Those on board have had their contracts extended, sometimes beyond 17 months, and are facing fatigue and physical and mental health issues, leading to fears of self-harm and suicide.’

At Sailors’ Society, we have been contacted by overwhelming numbers of seafarers affected by the crisis, many of whom are struggling with exhaustion and anxiety about their families and finances.

We are supporting as many as we can, offering mental health support, practical help in ports and welfare grants to seafarers who have been plunged into poverty. So many people have been affected that our crisis team is now having to prioritise the most desperate cases, and as long as this situation remains, the number of seafarers and their families who are suffering continues to grow.

We thank the UN for raising this issue and back its call for governments to act now.”

Seafarers need your support, now more than ever. You can help by donating to our emergency appeal.

We are also calling on shipping companies to support their crews by adopting our free Wellness at Sea awareness campaignwhich offers mental health advice and support for seafarers at this difficult time.