The Real Intensity of Seafarers’ COVID19 Struggle!


A series of news reports in various sources like Human Rights at Sea, Seatrade Maritime News and Port to Port highlight the plight of seafarers in sea.

In the wake of coronavirus, shipping industry has been deeply affected and to be precise, the workforce which enables the supply chain to function without any hazzle has been victimized to the worst level.

Human Rights at Sea (HRAS)  overwhelmed with emails and text

We have been overwhelmed by emails and texts from seafarers who have been forced to stay onboard and work without their consent, said David Hammond, ceo and founder of HRAS.


Some of the seafarers contacted the HRAS and shared their state of condition, which is disheartening and painful.  It is also worth mentioning that welfare organisations and unions must be in receipt of the same, though many times more.

Some of the statements mentioned by seafarers are as follows:

  • [Fear of retribution] “I cannot disclose the company or ship name. I don’t know what action will be taken against me…they could have arranged sign off but they did not. Now there is no way to go home.”
  • “Sir. Many of us completed our tenure but can’t go home due to lock down situation worldwide and in [our]home country. Moreover we are being sent for [to] highly affected EU countries. Panic is there onboard as well as at home. In this severe situation we would like to be with our families to support them. Company appreciated us for keeping up supply chain worldwide but who is going to take care of us and our family??”
  • “I am stranded in Hotel since 4th March on Tunisia and you aware I came to join ship.  I don’t know whether I will be able to join ship or come back to India which is ban till 14th April.  How long will I pay hotel bills.  I have to pay loan EMi and feed family.  Company has not supported in this crisis as my contract is valid from day I  join the ship. Tunisia is ban till 4th April and may delay further.  I don’t understand how long will seafarer will stay without salary and support families if no income.”
  • “It’s not much fun being on a ship right now.  There’s a serious lack of, one might say ‘essence’ among the crew. Lot of frightened people. Lot of people very worried about family,  most of the offices are closed so logistic comes are a clusterfuck. This is a chance for the DPAs to shine. But so far nothing. I’d say 70% of the world’s fleet is approaching skeleton crew. Sure, it’s a global nightmare but it’s not what a lot of these signed for. Lots of folk expected their companies to look after them. Seems the demands on the fleet is getting greater with less logistic support less crew on board and less aggressive support. Having said that I can’t gripe my gang are all OK. Home and aboard, we’ve got some good banter going. Those guys in the article though that’s happened a lot and still happening. Really shitty.”
  • “Internet connections shipboard. There’s usually a system for crew to have access to a messaging service through Wi-Fi evergreen use Whats app I think we use messenger or Viber I’m not sure.  You are given or buy a data allowance. And can message whenever you like providing connection is good.  If that connection goes down the crew have little or no contact with family at home because if you read the WHO special requirements for ports it’s becoming more and more difficult to get local SIM cards.”
  • “Sign off cancelled as travel restrictions imposed. Now crew change is impossible as no government will lift travel restrictions due to impact of coronavirus.”
  • “This is really bad by the companies…we have not signed contract for this…we should have the say.”
  • “I have a 3 months contract now I am already over 4months on board , with most of the counties shutting down borders it looks [like we] Would be on board for a few months at least and even if can get off from the vessel might get stuck in some airport. Though the flights are shut but the ships are still going to corona infected areas like Spain and Italy, with insufficient disinfectants sanitisers and medical equipment.”
  • “Only fear is in case someone gets corona on board it’s a closed environment would get transmitted to all on board . And in such a case for sure no country will allow the vessel in its ports. For now we are just checking daily temperature of all crew and people coming on board.”
  • “As of now there is no communication from the office regarding my salary not being paid. What do we do?”
  • “Because of heavy [expensive] port charges they won’t take us to [an] Indian port. But we are very worried about family because they need us bad.”
  • “Sir, is there any possibility on policy changes for seafarers to get back to their family? It is very concerning.”
  • “I had a new born baby after my joining here. I have to see him.”

HRAS has made three recommendations 

First, seafarers must be given accurate facts about the virus, including the symptoms, how it can be transmitted, how it can be contained and periods of self and family isolation.

Second, they should be counselled to manage expectations on returning home, including understanding their dependents’ fears.

Third, said Hammond,“education is key for seafarers, fishers and their dependents to ensure that individuals are empowered with correct knowledge and so that reintegration and issues of social exclusion by family members and local communities are minimised.”

David Hammond, CEO of Human Rights at Sea (HRAS), “It is now time to tell the whole truth, including the good, the bad and the ugly of the ramifications of COVID-19 on the silent heroes who will keep us supplied and alive in this unprecedented global crisis,” he said.

“The current public narrative fails to address, in any detail, the very real hardships of the many seafarers who underpin commercial maritime development and its profit. This most probably relates to the inconvenient and uncomfortable truth of the current situation,” Hammond adds.

Deliberate Supperssion of the facts

Hammond also cited seafarers’ fears of losing their jobs and being blacklisted for speaking up.

“Questions must now be asked of whether is there a deliberate suppression of the facts and
ground-truth, particularly for those seafarers who are not being currently employed but are in the crew management system, careless under-reporting, or just a convenient avoidance of the inconvenient truth behind the ongoing suffering of seafarers and their families during the COVID-19 crisis?”

If all the three above mentioned recommendations are implemented, it would a of great moral booster to all of the seafarers suffering in the middle of the sea.  HRAS is playing a key role in bringing the reality ashore. Hope things change for these unsung heroes at the earliest.

Did you subscribe to our daily newsletter?

It’s Free! Click here to Subscribe!

Source: Port to Port, Seatrade-Martime, Human Rights at Sea



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.