Many seafarers could quit the industry over mishandling of COVID-19 crew change crisis

Nearly 90% of British seafarers have been affected by the pandemic and one in two is now considering their future in the industry, research from Nautilus International shows.

Illustration; Image by Offshore Energy

The seafarers have been directly impacted by the crew change crisis, with issues including being stranded at sea due to lack of crew change, stranded at home unable to join vessel, having their pay and conditions cut, and job losses.

Nautilus is calling for governments and industry to work together to facilitate as many crew changes as possible throughout December to ‘deliver seafarers home for Christmas’, as some crew members face a second Christmas away from home.

Today the union aunched a new petition, calling on governments and the United Nations to work together to ensure that seafarers are designated as key workers in every country, and allow global crew changes to take place.

An estimated 400,000 seafarers from across the globe are now stranded on ships, continuing to work but unable to be relieved, in a crew change crisis which threatens trade and maritime safety.

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The union said that it has been overwhelmed by requests for support by many members since the outset of the pandemic, whether they have been trapped at sea or unable to join their ship.

“Being a seafarer for 42 years did not prepare me for the mental stress of having a Covid-19 susceptible partner back home completely isolated and alone for five months. I was only expected to be away for eight weeks,” one member said.

“I was stuck at home for over seven months with no salary. I had to borrow money from my family and sell personal belongings to survive,” another said.

While the wife of a seafarer still trapped at sea told the union:

“My husband is currently at sea, having done twice his contracted time. He is now suffering with anxiety and I am extremely worried about him. He has no way of getting help via telephone, decent nutritional meals, a care package or human contact.”

“Our members work hard to supply food, medicines – and presents – to UK households. They often do so without much acknowledgement or public recognition,” Nautilus International general secretary Mark Dickinson said:

“This year, the coronavirus pandemic has given rise to unprecedented levels of stress, fatigue and safety concerns due to countries closing their borders and preventing them from seeing loved ones. Now many UK seafarers are left re-considering their very future in the industry.

“Normally at this time of year we remind people that seafarers deliver them Christmas. This year we are calling on everyone to deliver seafarers home for Christmas.”