Blog of the week by Eva Lianne Berger-Veldkamp
This week I received a message from one of my seafaring friends who was working offshore on the other side of the world: “The local government makes it impossible for our company to carry out crew changes and we are forced to make double rotations. Mariners who have to leave their platform or vessel for medical reasons are now kept on board for much longer than is healthy for them. In some cases, their condition becomes so serious that permanent damage is done.”
“Some fellow crew members lost a loved one at home and are unable to attend to the funeral and to support their family. They are stuck on board of the vessel they work on. Humanitarian rights are not respected.”
My friend asked me to share his story, to let people know what is going on at sea. He assured me that people working at sea would highly appreciate the effort.
The theme of World Maritime Day 2021 of last week was ‘Seafarers: at the core of shipping’s future’
The International Maritime Organization has chosen to make 2021 a year of action for seafarers. Despite the vital role as key workers for global supply chains, seafarers are facing unprecedented hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Is drawing attention to the invaluable role mariners play enough? Will it solve the problem?
When you look at the future of shipping in this regard it is interesting how we all depend on the people working at sea.
We are eating exotics fruits from other parts of the world, we are wearing clothes and shoes that were fabricated in countries far away from us. 90% of all goods we buy are transported by people working on the ships of the worlds’ merchant fleet. Windfarms that are currently developed to enable green energy transition, are built by mariners working on the many heavy lift, dredging or support vessels, offshore installations, tugboats and other specialized vessels offshore.
We need these people, and we need them to feel valued and respected. Without people, ships cannot sail. Working at sea on a ship or offshore, is something very different that what we are used to on land.
Mariners are used to solving their own problems, they have to extinguish their own fires, maintain engines and equipment themselves and depend on each other. In general, seafarers have a great sense of responsibility and are used to taking pro-active action.
Maybe that is why mariners almost never complain. Because complaining isn’t solving the problem. Taking action is.
That is why I am happy to work a flag state who took the initiative to act on solutions for these problems: Dominica Maritime Registry.
In May 2021, Dominica Maritime Registry submitted a proposal to the 103rd session of the Maritime Safety Committee of IMO in May 2021. It encouraged IMO Member States and NGO’s to commit and implement actions to address to the crew change crisis:
- designating seafarers as ʺkey workersʺ;
- recognizing international documentation as evidence of this status;
- ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel;
- create of quarantine facilities; and
- provision of access to medical care, including access to vaccines
All of these points were taken forward to as a collaborate effort, an Assembly resolution was drafted and the IMO Secretariat submitted this draft Assembly resolution to the Maritime Safety Committee in October 2021, for submission to Assembly, with a view of adoption in December 2021.
Tangible action is of an absolute necessity to address the crew change crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The implementation of these actions will raise seafarers above their current struggle and allow for timely and necessary relief from their services at sea.
Let’s solve this problem.
Let’s take action.
Let’s make sure this resolution will save lives.
This blog of the week is shared by courtesy of Eva Lianne Berger-Veldkamp, former seafarer, maritime columnist and IMO Policy Coordinator at Commonwealth of Dominica Maritime Registry. Follow her maritime updates on LinkedIn.