Seafarers will get enhanced rights as key workers following a joint commitment made at the International Maritime Summit on July 9.
Representatives from over a dozen countries including Norway, Denmark, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Greece, Philippines and the United States attended the summit, which was hosted by the U.K. They agreed to new international measures to open up foreign borders for seafarers and increase the number of commercial flights to expedite repatriation efforts.
Despite the crucial role they play, restrictions on international travel have left thousands of seafarers stranded at foreign ports with some confined to vessels for months despite having no contact with coronavirus.
The summit, hosted by British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Maritime Minister Kelly Tolhurst, brought together members of the United Nations with political and business leaders from across the globe. The difficulties maritime crews face across the world was at the center of the discussions, while all governments and parties were urged to resolve the issues with maritime transport to support workers and the industry more widely.
Kitack Lim, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization, also gave a special address and explained the plight of seafarers during the pandemic.
Shapps said the new agreement builds on the U.K. government’s longstanding work to bring home the British maritime workers waiting for repatriation and help seafarers in U.K. ports return home. The summit follows the successful repatriation of 12,000 seafarers from U.K. shores throughout the pandemic.
In conjunction with the Merchant Navy Welfare Board and Seafarers U.K., the British government has also announced a program to support seafarers in U.K. shores with mobile internet routers – MiFi units – on board ships where hundreds of seafarers are still waiting to return home. This will give hundreds of seafarers free internet access on board.
Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Shipping Guy Platten said there are now over 200,000 seafarers around the world who are stranded at sea and have overrun their contracts. “These forgotten heroes of global trade work 12-hour days and 7-day weeks to make sure those of us on land have the food, medicine and fuel we need during this difficult time. This summit is a welcome show of political leadership at a time when seafarers across the world need it most. Governments must now use this summit as a catalyst to implement with the solutions the shipping industry has provided, applying the political will needed to put them into practice. This issue doesn’t require money and did not need complicated negotiations. This summit is a catalyst for action.”