In light of the challenging situations arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Labour Organization (ILO) issued a joint statement highlighting that seafarers should be exempted from travel restrictions and be treated as “key workers”.
Specifically, the joint statement launched 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.
The statement notes that
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.
This comes after 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. Some ports 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.
Moreover, it has been stated that the industry should take care seafarers’ smooth crew changes and repatriation, as many reports have been already published, where seafarers are facing difficulties and are denied off-signing.
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.