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HRAS disassociates from ITF’s ‘Enough is enough’ call to action

Maritime NGO Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) has denounced the ‘Enough is enough’ call to action by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), which has vowed support to seafarers in enforcing their right to stop working, leave ships and return home.

The call came after a one-month deadline to resolve the crew change issue and expedite seafarers’ sign-off from ships given to governments by maritime unions and employers expired on June 15.

The industry is calling on the flag and port states to facilitate crew changes by designating seafarers as key workers, exempting them from travel restrictions and enabling them to go home.

The plight of the industry comes at a time when around 200,000 seafarers are stuck at sea pending sign-off facing increasing stress, mental and physical strain that could impact their ability to perform their duties safely.

However, HRAS believes the call to action and protesting further contract extensions by disrupting global supply lanes during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis has alienated unions at “a time in humanity’s history when global unity and stability is most needed.”

“Human Rights at Sea strongly denounces what it considers are irresponsible and short-sighted actions by ITF and supporting industry bodies, which if allowed to be followed, could well have life-changing repercussions and long-term ripple effects for the most vulnerable in society,” HRAS said in a statement.

The NGO believes such a call to action for global organised disruption will predominantly affect those in the margins of society for whom charity and welfare support are quite literally life-lines, including the reliance on regular seaborne re-supply for supporting the day-to-day lives of entire communities and states.

“ITF’s stance in this matter to rely upon the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) could well mean that millions of people relying for survival from food, medical and World Food Programme development aid in refugee camps in the likes of Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere around the globe would suffer unnecessarily.

“Their actions could well change the balance in accessing critical supplies for the likes of UNICEF and UNHCR development programmes, associated feeding programmes, the distribution of tents, the access to medical support to government and civil society agencies who are invariably resupplied in bulk by sea, and which often determines the fine balance between living and dying.”

The charity said that it strongly supports key worker status for seafarers to enable expedited crew-change and essential welfare support to those in the greatest of need.

However, HRAS said it could not support ITF in this matter and called on the IMO, ICS and other industry entities to publicly distance themselves from this “damaging and ill-conceived call to action that will cause wider global suffering beyond the crew-change crisis for millions of innocent people.”

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