Trade unions urge gov’ts to as­sist crew mem­bers trapped at sea

Jamaica Gleaner - - FEATURE -

LEAD­ERS FROM mar­itime unions are ask­ing gov­ern­ments to as­sist crew mem­bers who are trapped on their ships, un­able to re­turn home be­cause of the COVID-19 pan­demic. It is es­ti­mated that over 200,000 sea­far­ers across the ma­rine unions are fac­ing this chal­lenge. With sea­far­ers trapped at sea for so long, the mat­ter grad­u­ally be­comes a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis due to the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the crew mem­bers men­tal and phys­i­cal well-be­ing and, con­se­quently, poses a threat to global trade. Un­der mar­itime con­ven­tions, port state con­trol au­thor­i­ties can stop ships if sea­far­ers have been on-board for too many months.

Across the globe, due to travel re­stric­tions, ports that are not al­low­ing dis­em­barka­tions and some gov­ern­ment of­fices re­main­ing closed make it ex­tremely dif­fi­cult for sea­far­ers to do their jobs and to make it home. Writ­ing on the sub­ject, the ship­ping in­dus­try jour­nal, The Mar­itime Ex­ec­u­tive, says pres­i­dents of six United States (US) mar­itime unions jointly con­tacted the US Sec­re­taries of State and De­fense to fa­cil­i­tate over­seas re­lief for Amer­i­can mariners; and In­ter­na­tional Trans­port Work­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion (ITF) Pres­i­dent Paddy Crum­lin, on be­half of the ITF and the Mar­itime Union of Aus­tralia, made calls to the Aus­tralian prime min­is­ter, with both ask­ing that sea­far­ers, in­clud­ing dock work­ers, be treated as es­sen­tial work­ers dur­ing the pan­demic.

To fa­cil­i­tate crew changes and repa­tri­a­tion, global cruise ships have taken the de­ci­sion - what seems to be the only avail­able so­lu­tion – to try and re­turn crew mem­bers home by us­ing its own ships. How­ever, over 120,000 sea­far­ers from Third-World coun­tries will re­quire Schen­gen visas to be able to travel to re­lieve crews on ves­sels in Euro­pean Union (EU) ports. This poses chal­lenges for sea­far­ers who will have to ap­ply for a first-time or a re­newed Schen­gen visa, which is es­ti­mated to be over a quar­ter of the work­ers.

With this ur­gent need for an emer­gency re­lief, the Euro­pean Com­mu­nity Shipown­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, the Euro­peans Trans­porta­tion Work­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion, Cruise Lines In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion and the World Ship­ping Coun­cil are mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions to Euro­pean Union min­is­ters to al­low an in­crease in is­sued visas or tem­po­rary visa waivers for crew and/or tem­po­rar­ily ac­cept­ing visas re­cently ex­pired. Ad­di­tional calls are made to EU Schen­gen mem­ber states, which are cur­rently closed, to as­sist with the in­flux of these visa ap­pli­ca­tions by sea­far­ers.

The jointly signed ap­peal to the EU min­is­ters says these emer­gency so­lu­tions would bring crit­i­cal re­lief for many sea­far­ers who have been at sea for many months, em­ploy­ment for those re­plac­ing them, and sup­port for the main­te­nance of ship­ping ser­vices that will be vi­tal to the re­cov­ery of economies in the short, medium and long term.

See The Mar­itime Ex­ec­u­tive, June 6, 2020.

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