Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the declaration by WHO (World Health Organization) as a pandemic, our lives have changed dramatically. Most of us work remotely from the safety of our homes. There are however people who keep taking care of our wellbeing, like health professionals, people working in groceries/pharmacies and of course seafarers which often are overlooked.
Despite a de facto lockdown situation in many countries, aiming at reducing the speed at which the virus spreads, many of our daily needs remain. There is still the same demand for supplies, medicines, foods and other essential goods. These goods are not growing or produced in every country of the world – 92% are transported by sea and this may be a number that will increase for the next few months considering that airlines have reduced their operations substantially.
As a result of the border and travel restrictions, hundreds of thousands of seafarers are required to stay onboard for an extended time and cannot return as planned to see their loved ones. This is a big challenge for their wellbeing and of course, directly impacts their families as well in many ways. Just imagine how risky it may be these days for a parent to attend a grocery shop with their children where there is a significant possibility of having those children exposed to the virus as they are left to take care of their children on their own. Seafarers are husbands, wives, sons, daughters, and grandchildren – “they are people, usually far from home and family. Their health and welfare are as important as those of anyone else”
Forcing seafarers to work to extend their time on board for not only weeks but potentially months will compromise their wellbeing severely. OSM provides several support options to the seafarers including professional mental health hotlines. We have also taken steps to protect our seafarers especially in ports, when external visitors or workers board the ships. Despite our substantial and continued efforts to provide best possible support, we remain concerned about a potential impact to the safety of the ships. Safe operations are essential for global supply chains and thus for the availability of goods world-wide (medicines, food supplies, fuel, etc).
In strong support of our seafarers and their families, OSM embraces the message from IMO’s Secretary-General Kitack Limwhere he states that we need to adopt a “practical and pragmatic approach” – “crew changeovers, resupply, repairs, survey and certification and licensing of seafarers”.
Seafarers play a significant part in the global economy. They are the moving power of the global supply chain and we need to support them on doing their job professionally – we need to support them on serving the global economy with their efforts to enable the delivery of goods, medicines, fuel etc to our countries and eventually to our homes.
OSM is actively engaging with major industry associations such as BIMCO, Intertanko and IMEC to name a few, in a joint initiative to maintain global supply chains by allowing seafarers free movement from and to their ships.