Trapped on their ships due to travel restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 300,000 seafarers cannot be repatriated, and an equal number of unemployed seafarers ashore cannot work, because they are unable to board ships.
Those on board have had their contracts extended, sometimes beyond 17 months, and are facing fatigue and physical and mental health issues. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Labour Organization (ILO) and International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) have received thousands of urgent calls for help from seafarers and their families.
The maritime shipping sector faces a humanitarian crisis. The Joint Statement calls on all Governments to immediately recognize seafarers as key workers, and to take swift and effective action to eliminate obstacles to crew changes, so as to address the humanitarian crisis faced by the shipping sector, ensure maritime safety and facilitate economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Statement warns that the rights of seafarers, as enshrined in the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC 2006), as amended, and other international instruments, have not been fully respected by all governments, mostly importantly the maximum period of service on board (11 months) and also their rights to shore leave, annual leave, repatriation, and access to medical care on board and ashore.
The current rise in seafarer fatigue threatens the safety of maritime navigation.
The efficient continuation of trade and the undisrupted functioning of supply chains will also be affected because ships with fatigued seafarers cannot operate indefinitely.
Commercial fishing, an important contributor to food security and livelihoods, is facing a similar crew change problem.
It is therefore essential that all governments urgently recognize seafarers as key workers and take immediate, concrete action to eliminate obstacles to crew changes, so addressing this humanitarian crisis, ensuring maritime safety and sustainable shipping, and facilitating economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.