HRAS CEO Slams Fear of Telling the Truth about Seafarers’ Struggles

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on the global economy and trade, disrupting numerous sectors in different ways.

In particular, the recent lockdown measures and travel restrictions have left seafarers in limbo, especially those between contracts and who are part of the global crew change-over system.

Unions and NGOs have been swamped with seafarers’ plights for assistance as they are left stranded on vessels without pay, unable to return home and largely deprived of information about the COVID-19 developments deeply affecting their state of mind.

David Hammond, CEO of Human Rights at Sea (HRAS), believes there has been an unexplained under-reporting of the detail of the pandemic’s consequences on seafarers, as well as their families.

“It is now time to tell the whole truth, including the good, the bad and the ugly of the ramifications of COVID-19 on the silent heroes who will keep us supplied and alive in this unprecedented global crisis,” he said.

Hammond adds that the current narrative is an unbalanced advancing of the corporate message that ‘seafarers will not leave their posts’. However, there is much more context behind such a stoic narrative, he insists.

“The current public narrative fails to address, in any detail, the very real hardships of the many seafarers who underpin commercial maritime development and its profit. This most probably relates to the inconvenient and uncomfortable truth of the current situation,” Hammond adds.

Furthermore, he pointed out to the uneasiness of some maritime industry figures to talk about the issues seafarers are faced with on a daily basis and tendency of corporate management chain to water down the real situation in an effort to keep up the appearances and resume business as usual.

Hammond also cited seafarers’ fears of losing their jobs and being blacklisted for speaking up.

“We are not hearing (…) the real details of the alternative reality and of the uncomfortable stories reflecting the consequences of those not fortunate enough to have the support of the big commercial companies who are pushing this stoic messaging. Without this, we have an incomplete and less-than-transparent picture of what is occurring,” he continued.

“Undeniably, facts save lives and reduce suffering, but currently a potential fear of the facts is stymieing wider public awareness and therefore support to seafarers and their families, as well as highlighting need for critical support to front-line welfare organisations.

“Questions must now be asked of whether is there a deliberate suppression of the facts and ground-truth, particularly for those seafarers who are not being currently employed but are in the crew management system, careless under-reporting, or just a convenient avoidance of the inconvenient truth behind the ongoing suffering of seafarers and their families during the COVID-19 crisis?”