Seafarers' work is unique and essential. Seafarers are on the front line in this global fight. They deserve our thanks. But they also need – and deserve – quick and decisive humanitarian action from governments everywhere, not just during this pandemic, but at all times,

...IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said in his opening remarks.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, hundreds of thousands of seafarers are still on ships with extended contracts beyond the maximum time at sea permitted under international regulations. The number of stranded seafarers is currently 400,000, with 200,000 needing to leave ships and a similar number needing to replace them.

Therefore, this year's Day of the Seafarer campaign urged Governments to grant them key worker status so they are able to travel and transit to and from ships.

Leadership and action are now needed to bring back seafarers, who are fatigued and have missed weddings, births and funerals because of the crisis, said Guy Platten, Secretary-General, ICS.

Shipping is truly a global industry and we need Governments to provide a global solution,

...added Mr. Stephen Cotton, General Secretary, ITF.

The ITF has been receiving emails from hundreds of seafarers daily, expressing their concern about contracts being extended under duress. This will impact their ability to perform safe operations, putting themselves at risk as well as the global supply chain and potentially the environment, he warned.

Moreover, Fr. Paulo Prigol, Stella Maris Manila and South East Asia Regional Coordinator, highlighted the devastating financial and emotional impact of the pandemic on families of seafarers, due to the extended time at sea for some seafarers and the inability to get to work for others.

Some successful crew changeovers have been happening in and via the Netherlands, thanks to collaboration between shipowners, the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and the Netherlands Government, said Mr. Niels van de Minkelis, Head, Operational Affairs, Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners (KNVR).

Some 6,000 seafarers have been moved since May between the Netherlands and seafaring nations (Indonesia, the Philippines, Poland, Russian Federation and Ukraine), in an example of what can be done with good cooperation between the different entities involved.

Finally, the panelists welcomed the UK Government’s initiative in calling a global summit on the issue, but warned that real action from governments everywhere was needed to solve the crisis and get seafarers home and replaced.