ISWAN’s seafarer helpline has experienced a surge in demand amid the COVID-19 crisis which has deeply affected seafarers worldwide, with repatriation being at the center of concerns, the organization informed.
In April 2020 alone, ISWAN’s 24-hour helpline SeafarerHelp handled over 600 new cases – more than triple the number in the same month last year.
Many of these cases involve seafarers experiencing issues as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
In fact, up to 1 May 2020, the helpline has recorded over 470 COVID-19-related cases affecting more than 7,000 seafarers.
So far, the most common COVID-19-related problem reported by seafarers to SeafarerHelp is difficulty with repatriation.
The COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent global lockdown has left crews around the world unable to disembark from their vessels due to port restrictions or unable to make their home once ashore.
In cases such as these, SeafarerHelp’s helpline officers work with a network of organisations including ship owners, the ITF, government agencies, welfare bodies, and ISWAN’s own regional teams in the Philippines, India and Nigeria, who are in close contact with their national maritime authorities, to arrange the help the seafarers need.
Meanwhile, over 100 cases so far involve seafarers seeking financial assistance, and the SeafarerHelp team has referred those eligible to the ISWAN Hardship Fund and Seafarers Emergency Fund.
A similar number of cases were requests for information on topics such as visas, joining ships or port restrictions, and SeafarerHelp provides a first port of call for those unsure where to go.
Our helplines are coping well during the COVID-19 crisis, despite the fact that we ourselves are under lockdown and everybody is working from home,
…says SeafarerHelp Deputy Team Manager Yasmine Zhao.
ISWAN’s SeafarerHelp is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and the helpline team speaks a number of different languages. Seafarers and their families can contact the helpline via a range of channels including telephone, e-mail, WhatsApp and Live Chat, and speak confidentially to a trained helpline officer.