ITF calls for suspension of crew changes in northern Mozambique over terror threat

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has backed the calls for a crew change suspension in northern Mozambique until the threat to seafarers’ lives reduces.

Shipowners are being urged to stop crew changes in the region because they would expose seafarers to the risk of attack or kidnapping by violent terrorist groups operating in the region.

The call echoes the message from the Norwegian Maritime Unions (NMU), which has written to the Norwegian Shipowners Association (NSA), asking the body’s members to avoid the province of Cabo Delgado since violence escalated in recent weeks due the growing power of organisations such as ISIL-affiliated Ansar-al-Sunna and local cells of al-Shabab (‘The Youth’). At least 51 children were kidnapped by non-state armed groups in the area last year, Save the Children reported.

“The security situation in Cabo Delgado is dire,” said Johnny Hansen, president of the Norwegian Seafarers’ Union, which is one of the three unions that form the NMU. “Foreign workers are being targeted by terrorists, and seafarers will be no exception. Their lives are in danger.”

“Asking seafarers to come ashore, to stay in Covid quarantine facilities, while the volatile situation happening outside risks their very lives? That is unacceptable. Seafarers could be killed or taken hostage on their way to airports and harbours,” he said, adding shipowners should make alternative plans so that their crew changes can take place elsewhere.

ITF Africa regional secretary Mohammed Dauda Safiyanu said that Mozambique’s maritime unions were supporting the call for seafarers and international workers to avoid Cabo Delgado while the situation remained volatile. Other parts of Mozambique’s coast remained relatively safe to perform crew changes for international workers, he said, including Biera, Nacala and Maputo.

“We are calling on Mozambique’s government to take all necessary efforts to foster peace and security in the war zone areas so that the people of Mozambique, and Mozambican transport workers in particular, can pick up the pieces of their lives,” he noted.