Photo: Illustration; Image by Offshore Energy

Shipping bodies urge Jeff Bezos to take a stand for stranded seafarers

The leaders of the major shipping bodies are calling on the Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to take a stand for the seafarers stranded at sea due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions.

It is estimated that around 400,000 seafarers have been stuck on ships way beyond their contracts, unable to disembark or reach out to their families, with 400,000 more unable to sign onto ships.

BIMCO, INTERCARGO, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), and INTERTANKO sent a joint open letter to Bezos asking him to use his influence and profile as the world’s leading retail entrepreneur, whose business relies upon global shipping, to exert pressure on the incoming Biden administration in the US and other world leaders to recognise seafarers as key workers.

The letter among other things says the strength of Amazon’s (and others’) supply chain is central to the success of red-letter retail days like Black Friday.

“If ships do not sail, events on the scale of Black Friday or Cyber Monday would be impossible. Yet unforgivably, more than 400,000 of our seagoing colleagues and seafarers, who underpin the movement of goods around the world, are currently stranded on board their vessels, because governments will not recognise their crucial role and prioritise them for immigration and travel purposes. (…)

“As one of the world’s most prominent entrepreneurs, you have unparalleled influence, which we hope you will use to join us in pushing public recognition of seafarers as key workers, and champion the cause at the highest levels of government, including in the United States with the incoming Biden administration. You have the power to make a real difference for 400,000 dedicated professionals whose self-sacrifice is keeping the world’s marketplace running. “

According to a recent survey carried out by Lloyd’s Register, wenty-seven percent of survey respondents indicated poor management of workload and fatigue in their teams and not being able to get a good quality of sleep.  

Furthermore, they also report not socialising on board, not being able to exercise as much as they would like to and not having access to good quality food.   

The latest Mission to Seafarers’ Happiness Index, released in October 2020, showed that the ongoing crew change crisis has chipped away at seafarers’ hopes for action to resolve the impact of extended employment contracts. 

Although the index went up to 6.35, from 6.18 for the second quarter of 2020, the scores dropped as the third quarter progressed. 

“2020 has been one of the most challenging years for the world in recent times. But we have seen companies like Amazon increasing their profits thanks to a great extent to the actions of seafarers who have kept trade flowing. We now need leaders like Jeff Bezos to raise their voices in support of the many seafarers who despite being in effect trapped by the crew change crisis have continued to perform their duties,” Esben Poulsson, Chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping, said.

There has been some hope that with the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine the crew change crisis might finally start to wind down.

However, the industry bodies fear that there was a risk that sailors could be forgotten again if there was not a specific programme put in place to vaccinate seafarers as a priority.

“Without immediate action from industry and governments around the world, 2021 will be a year of slow and complicated recovery. For an industry which supports the vast majority of global trade and lies at the heart of viable economic recovery, this represents an unacceptable future. It is of the utmost importance that seafarers are more widely recognised as key workers and prioritised for vaccinations. This is urgently needed to end the nightmare many hundreds of thousands of seafarers have endured over the last year, allowing them to just do their jobs.”