The adverse conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered reports of seafarers stranded on cruise ships taking their own lives, but there appears to be no reliable source of information about the scale of this tragedy.

I have been astonished to discover that there is no single source of data on how many seafarers have taken their own lives during the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, alarmingly, it appears no one has been or is keeping an accurate global record of seafarer suicides,

...Seafarers UK’s Chief Executive Officer Catherine Spencer said.

This, explained Ms. Spencer, may be because suicides do not result in claims handled by the P&I Clubs that provide insurance for most merchant ship owners.

But that picture also is unclear, as some suicides at sea may be being recorded erroneously as fatal accidents. Unless we know the true extent of the problem, how can we target our support for seafarers and those working on the front line to support seafarers’ welfare?

As coronavirus restrictions have impeded crew changes, thousands of seafarers remain stranded onboard with extended contracts and denied access at ports worldwide.

As a result, many crews’ medical conditions stay untreated, while access to free communication with families and friends is typically infrequent.

One consequence of this crisis has been an increase in the number of seafarer suicides, including on ‘mothballed’ cruise ships.

I urge the International Labour Organization to consider what steps need to be taken, with regard to the Maritime Labour Convention 2006, to ensure that all seafarer suicides are accurately identified, recorded and shared with organisations like Seafarers UK that fund a wide range of interventions and welfare services which support the wellbeing of seafarers and their families,

...she concluded.

See also: World Mental Health Day: Suicide of seafarers in the spotlight