Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
Seafarers UK is a charity that has been helping those in the maritime community for over 100 years, by providing vital support to seafarers in need and their families.
This aid has been achieved by grants to organisations and projects across the Merchant Navy, the Fishing Fleets, the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.
In 2019 Seafarers UK awarded 53 grants totalling £2.2m to 43 maritime welfare charities.
On 3 April Seafarers UK made an open appeal on the world wide web to draw attention to the unprecedented times when the effects of COVID-19 are being felt all over the world with the seafaring community being no exception.
As an island nation, the UK is particularly dependent on its seafarers to keep the UK supplied with food, medicine, fuel and other essential supplies. As such, the Government has acknowledged the importance of those who work in the supply chain during the COVID-19 pandemic and has officially designated seafarers as key workers.
As the world fights the Coronavirus pandemic seafarers are silently playing a vital role in keeping the nation afloat, under extremely challenging and unpredictable conditions.
It is understood that there have been an increasing number of reports of crews being abandoned in foreign ports, without money or food, and unable to fly home.
Restrictions on crew changes and quarantine periods have separated many seafarers from their families for even longer, at what is already a distressing and unsettling time.
Many ports now prevent shore-leave thus denying access to shore-based facilities, including welfare services, with crews being left unassisted on board and having to rely on charitable support or even local pity, it is reported.
This is leaving many seafarers feeling isolated, depressed, worried about their families back at home, and extremely anxious about when they can see their loved ones again. It has never been more important for seafarers to have somewhere to turn for support.
With thousands of seafarers working tirelessly at the forefront of supporting the nation through this crisis, Seafarers UK has appealed for help to enable the charity to support seafarers and their families during this global emergency.
How support helps key charity workers
Seafarers UK’s funding supports essential helplines such as Seafarers Advice & Information Line (SAIL*) to provide a free telephone service to merchant seafarers and fishers, and SeafarerHelp**, a 24/7 confidential and free helpline for seafarers of any nationality or religion and their families.
Port welfare services
Where possible Seafarers UK staff continue to provide vital support for seafarers stranded in ports and cruise terminals.
In the UK seafarers’ centres at Tilbury and DP World London Gateway London, managed by Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest, are currently looking after 300 seafarers, who are not able to return home or join another ship.
How to donate
Donations may be made here:
Our picture shows a Carnival line up. Five Carnival ships are due in Durban in week commencing 24 May. (Photo: www.africaports.co.za )
No less than five Carnival Cruise ships are due to arrive in Durban between 26 and 28 May to take on bunkers and to restock depleted supplies.
These five ships are part of a group of 12 engaged in the humanitarian task of repatriating over 26,000 crew from the Carnival fleet and other companies, as well as personnel from entertainment centres ashore, who because of the coronavirus pandemic, have had their employment suddenly curtailed.
Hotel staff and entertainers
These are the entertainment staff, the onboard shop workers, beauty salon practitioners, waiters and bus boys, chefs and kitchen staff, cabin cleaners, pursers and front desk people all making up the staff working on board cruise ships.
With cruising curtailed these former employees are finally returning home to destinations like India, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines after having remained on board their ships for more than two months, unable to go ashore or receive visitors ever since cruising operations were suspended in mid -March. Ahead they face another three or four weeks at sea before being allowed to disembark. However, there’s something of a problem.
Call to governments
IFSMA* calls upon Governments to adopt the ‘Framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the COVID-19 pandemic’ without delay to allow ship owners and management companies to change over their dangerously tired crews.
Governments must act now in order to avoid personal injury to, and mental breakdown of, seafarers and avoid the significant risk of accidents and consequential danger to life and the environment.
Concern at IFSMA
IFSMA is receiving an increasing number of reports from its ship masters’ associations around the world concerned for the welfare and safety of crews and the increased risk with which they are operating in an already high risk environment. Seafarers are feeling let down and abandoned by their Governments.
Following concerns from the maritime industry, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) issued a circular to all Member States, the UN and agencies and IGOs and NGOs in consultative status with IMO. This document concerned recommendations to Member States about measures to facilitate ship crew changes in seaports during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The IMO Secretary General has received a framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the pandemic, proposed by a cross-section of global industry associations in consultative status with the IMO, for example: ICS, IAPH, BIMCO, IFSMA, and P&I Clubs as well as the International Air Transport Association (IATA).