Seafarers should be treated as ‘key workers’ and be exempted from travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic , say the Officers of a special International Labour Organisation (ILO) tripartite maritime committee representing seafarers, ship owners and governments.
A joint statement issued by the Officers of the Special Tripartite Committee of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC, 2006) also called on ILO member States to “do all that they can to facilitate the delivery of essential medical supplies, fuel, water, spare parts and provisions to ships.”
This follows reports that in some parts of the world suppliers have been prevented from boarding ships to give masks, overalls and other personal protective equipment to crews.
According to the statement, ports in some parts of the world have also refused to allow some ships to enter because they had previously docked in areas affected by COVID-19, preventing vessels from obtaining essential supplies.
“Seafarers are just as worthy as everyone else and should be treated with dignity and respect to ensure that they can continue to provide their vital services to the world,” the statement said.
The committee also underlined the importance of ensuring that the flow of essential goods, energy, food, medicines and many other products around the world is not disrupted “by measures that impede the safe and efficient movement of ships and the seafarers who operate them.”
ILO Director-General Guy Ryder, has asked governments “to ensure that, in these challenging times, seafarers are adequately protected from the COVID-19 pandemic, have access to medical care, and can travel to and from their ships, as necessary, in order to continue to play their crucial role.”
He welcomed “the coordinated efforts undertaken by social partners [employers’ and workers’ organisations] and the international community to respond to the crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic in the maritime sector.”
The COVID-19 epidemic is having a major impact on global shipping – which moves 90 per cent of world trade – and the working conditions of the nearly two million seafarers.
Seafarers’ rights are set out in the ILO’s MLC, 2006, which establishes minimum requirements for almost all aspects of working conditions for seafarers, including conditions of employment, hours of work and rest, repatriation, shore leave, accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering, health protection, medical care, welfare and social security protection.
The Convention has now been ratified by 96 ILO member States, representing more than 91 per cent of the world‘s merchant shipping fleet.