WelCom June 2020:
This year, the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) annual Day of the Seafarer will be marking its 10th annual anniversary on 25 June. The 2020 campaign theme is ‘Seafarers are Key Workers’.
IMO says seafarers are on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic, maintaining the flow of vital goods such as food, medicines and medical supplies. However, the crisis has led to difficult working conditions including uncertainties and difficulties about port access, re-supply, crew changeovers and repatriation.
IMO Member States are being called to recognise seafarers as key workers and to provide them with the support, assistance and travel options open to all key workers during the pandemic. The campaign pays tribute to seafarers, acknowledging their sacrifice and the issues they face. Many seafarers have been away from home for months and are unsure when they will be able to return home due to travel restrictions.
The 2020 campaign also seeks to raise awareness of the work achieved by seafarers in response to the pandemic and that the ability of seafarers to deliver vital goods is central to responding to and eventually overcoming the pandemic. IMO invites everyone to treat seafarers with respect and dignity so they can continue to provide vital services.
Fr Jeff Drane sm, the national co-ordinator of Stella Maris, the Apostleship of the Sea, reports on New Zealand’s response to seafarers during the pandemic.
The combined interfaith Seafarers Welfare Board of Aotearoa New Zealand along with Maritime NZ and Maritime Unions and ports and shipping agents are working together to reach what must be one of the most vulnerable groups during the Covid-19 pandemic, the 1.65 million seafarers of the world.
New Zealand’s response has been in tune with a global co-ordinated response due to the circumstances international transporters and cruise ships are in. They cannot land and they cannot return home because their home state cannot trace the contacts in the countries they have had contact with and travel between one sovereign state and another has had to be slowed down to at least two weeks at sea to qualify berthing to unload and reload in our ports. The health and safety of the New Zealand communities, of those caring for seafarers and the welfare of the seafarers themselves were all at stake.
Care for seafarers when in our ports at Level 4 was impossible with no contact or even any entry to any port allowed anywhere. Then at Level 3 some contact was possible at some ports only when a captain asked for spiritual, emotional or physical welfare reasons, but they were rare. Now at Level 2 some contact is slowly beginning through ship visits under strict social distancing regulations, regulated by port security. Some gifting of toiletries, provision of treats like chocolates and food supplies from supermarkets is done by us for seafarers when requested.