Seafarer Wellbeing Under Threat Amid Geopolitical Conflict


Crew are facing physical threats from geopolitical conflict that are impacting their wellbeing.

Shipping charities and unions have aired concerns that seafarer safety and well-being is being overlooked as they get caught in the crosshairs of geopolitical conflict in the Gulf of Aden, Red Sea and Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

Missile attack 

The missile attack on True Confidence on 6th March, which resulted in the tragic loss of three crew, realised the worst fears of many in the industry. However, while attacks on ships in these regions continue to disrupt the supply chain and threaten crew welfare, there are concerns that mainstream media’s focus on the financial implications of these geopolitical events is overshadowing the impact on seafarers.

Boet Van Schalkwyk, one of Sailors’ Society’s global team of trained responders, who has been speaking to seafarers as part of the organisation’s Ship Connect programme, said: “It’s the stress of not knowing that has …. pushed up anxiety levels and affected everybody onboard.”

Welfare support networks

Such welfare support networks are vital and the international community is also taking steps to safeguard trade and reassure ship owners and crew. It continues to bolster naval activity in the region and the deployment of the European Union´s Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) Operation Aspides will enhance the protection of ships targeted by sea and air attacks, augmenting the naval assets already on station through Operation Prosperity Guardian and independent deployers.

While noting shipping’s inability to shape the ongoing geopolitical events, Roy Khoury, CEO of Blue Fleet Group, operator of the Rubymar – which sank on 2 March after being struck by missiles on 18 February – stressed that leadership, crew training and trust between ship and shore-based personnel can help mitigate risk.

There were no casualties on board the Rubymar and the crew was safely evacuated to Djibouti and subsequently repatriated on Tuesday, 20th February. However, the ship’s leaking fuel oil and cargo of ammonium phosphate sulphate fertiliser now pose grave environmental risks to marine life, and the livelihoods of coastal communities. During a conference in Doha on 5th March, George Wikoff, the head of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, also noted that the ship itself also “presents a subsurface impact risk” to other ships navigating the Red Sea.

The Sailors’ Society continues to reach out to crews and their families affected by geopolitical turmoil through its helpline, Crisis Response Network and chaplaincy support. As noted by Van Schalkwyk: “They are aware that we are on 24/7 standby – they know our numbers, and they use them.”

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Source : Ics shippers