400,000 sailors in the corona crisis: Far from home and without shore for several months – the economy

The mask for the mouth and nose has an area of ​​300 square meters and weighs 200 kilograms. “Velsheda” wears them to draw attention to the fate of sailors in the corona crisis. “Velsheda” is a cargo ship of the Hamburg transport company Orion. Due to the mask, it attracted attention in South America, where the ship was heading for a Colombian port.

“Due to the pandemic, there are a large number of travel bans worldwide today, including restrictions on return, access to the port and the embarkation and disembarkation of cargo ships,” the German shipping company said in protest. “Tens of thousands of sailors are trapped by these regulations and cannot leave their ships or travel home from distant ports.”

The number of seafarers currently stranded on their ships due to travel restrictions and quarantine regulations is estimated at around 400,000 – often many months after the original contract expires. By doing so, the “session” does not actually hit the brand, because men and women continue to work on the ships, because otherwise it would not be possible. In the meantime, they lack their own weddings, the birth of a child or are increasingly suffering from mental health problems.

The United Nations is discussing this issue

The corona crisis not only disrupted the normal cycle of crew changes, but also destroyed it. The usual, well-planned transition between hard work on the high seas and a holiday from home has become impossible for many sailors. Flights are canceled. Entry restrictions or bans have often prevented return. Many ports simply did not let anyone disembark for months. Meanwhile, world trade continues.

The United Nations in New York has put the fate of sailors at the top of the global community’s agenda this week – at least that’s what UN diplomats hope. The General Assembly of 193 Member States requires that seafarers be classified as “critical of the system”, ie that they be treated in the same way as nurses and doctors. According to a UN resolution adopted on Wednesday night (CET), the exchange of crews on ships should be facilitated and sailors should be vaccinated earlier.

The federal government, which has been calling for similar measures for months but has little global influence on them, immediately signaled its support. “Many sailors around the world have had a holiday on land for several months, no compensation, no time with their families. There is also a need to fight for emergency medical care,” said government maritime coordinator Norbert Brackmann (CDU). “Sailors around the world are maintaining supply chains despite the pandemic,” the politician said. “In the interests of seafarers, words must now be followed by deeds.”

Above all, Amazon comes under fire

In Germany, for example, ports are also open during a pandemic and a complicated change of crew would be possible in cooperation with various authorities. For example, a UN resolution calls on member states to implement protocols for corona-safe crew changes that were developed in May. In addition, sailors should also be vaccinated against Corona soon.

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“It’s a human rights issue. The difficulty of changing crews makes seafarers’ lives impossible. It leads to enormous stress, fatigue and exhaustion – and it’s unbearable,” said Kitack Lim, Secretary-General of the United Nations Maritime Organization (IMO). “All of this can only adversely affect ship security and the supply chain.” Currently, 44 UN member states classify seafarers as “critical workers,” “key workers.” These governments should now use their influence to persuade other countries to follow them and classify their seafarers as “key forces,” said Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Maritime Chamber (ICS).

While shipping companies are making more money than usual in the corona crisis, and world trade, which is almost entirely by sea, is booming despite the pandemic, women and men are suffering in the oceans that make it all possible. After “Black Friday” and the days of discount wars that led to billions in sales, the eyes are now on the profits of maritime trade.

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Global trade giants Unilever (Ben & Jerry’s, Knorr, Dove) and Procter & Gamble (Ariel, Pampers, Gillette) have already called for an improvement in the situation of seafarers. Multi-billion premium corporate brands cannot use headlines like “Slaves of the Seas” and therefore promote decent working conditions – without forced labor. Amazon, the world’s largest retail giant, seems to have ignored these conflicts so far, so not only ICS is now attacking the richest man on Earth – Jeff Bezos. “Supply chains are at the heart of Amazon and Black Friday’s success,” writes ICS. “Without these sailors, global trade as we know it would simply cease to exist.” Amazon should call on the US government to classify seafarers as “critical of the system.”

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