Since emerging as a global health crisis in early 2020, the COVID-19 has made a profound impact everywhere. The pandemic has touched nearly every aspect of the world of work, not least on seafarer health as they continue to risk accidents on a daily basis while working long contracts.
This is why Liverpool Seafarers Centre is calling on the UK government to allocate greater funding for seafarers centres to mitigate potential occupational safety and health risks. We highlight the welfare of seafarers again on UN World Day for Safety and Health at Work.
This is especially important in the seafaring sphere, given its reputation for being one of the most dangerous jobs on earth. The Allianz Safety and Shipping Review 2020 identified loss trends for the maritime sector during COVID-19 and highlighted that the global number of reported shipping casualties or incidents increased by 5% from the previous year to 2,815.
Last year, the government of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made steps to resolve such issues by pledging to pursue legislation to fund seafarers centres in its ports.
Crosby-based Liverpool Seafarers Centre believes this approach should be followed in the UK due to the continuing COVID-19 situation, which has left approximately 200,000 seafarers stranded at sea due to travel restrictions.
Many of these seafarers have been forced to work long beyond their contracts, with a further 200,000 waiting ashore, unable to support their families. The covid crisis in India also stands to disrupt the lives of seafarers many of whom come from India.
We fear for the mental health implications that all these factors have had and continue to have on seafarers, as the IMO reports how some individuals had been at sea for 17 months without a break. This was well beyond the maximum 11-month limit set out in the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).
With hours of work and rest being highlighted to us by seafarers as a growing problem, we urge the UK Government to take action and invest in the seafarer support network nationwide.