To provide a clearer image of the situation onboard vessels, CNN’s Ivan Watson talked to sailors who have been stranded at sea for several months.
Priyanka, First Officer, Mt Dubai Hope, is the first officer and only woman onboard an oil tanker operating in the Gulf of Mexico.
She commented that
If we could go onshore, if by any means that crew member would get infected and then bring that infection onboard, easily we can all get infected. Due to this situation, no one can go ashore.
Priyanka was supposed to return to her house in India when her contract ended in April. However, the COVID-19 pandemic affected port operations and led to port and airport halting their services, meaning that seafarers have no way of getting back home.
Life is tough; We are tired, physically, mentally and we are emotionally exhausted working hard for six, seven months ... the life is monotonous.
In addition, referring to the authorities on ports that are currently not working due to the virus, as well as the airports that have paused their services, she stated that "basically there is no access and no passage for the seafarers."
To support seafarers' mental health, they are making efforts to boost the crew. On Sundays they gather all together to socialize, and not feel alone. But, the seafarers are not only worried about themselves, but about their families too.
However, to get seafarers home remains a challenging operation, as it requires the collaboration between multiple governments, ports, airlines and visas.
It is stated that Priyanka works for Wallem Group. The CEO, Frank Coles says that about 35% of his 7,000 employees work contracts have expired and he's struggling to get them home.
Commenting about the situation onboard cruise ships, he noted that they repatriated all tourists months ago, but still authorities ignore seafarers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted seafarer onboard who remain stranded at sea; Recently, maritime charity Seafarers UK noted a lack of reliable source of information about suicides at sea. In this regard, the charity urged the ILO to consider steps in line with MLC, to ensure that all seafarer suicides are accurately identified.
Concerning mental health and how to deal with it onboard, Dr Kate Thompson, a counselling psychologist, provides information and guidance for seafarers affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic. The video seeks to answer actual questions posed by seafarers who contacted the helpline SeafarerHelp.