Stranded at sea: The forgotten victims of the COVID crisis
Authors Arthur Richier
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Vortexa has signed the Neptune Declaration striving to save seafarers.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of thousands of seafarers are facing a cataclysmic crisis of unprecedented proportions.
Maritime frontline workers have been effectively imprisoned on ships around the world, well beyond the expiry date of their initial contracts with many prohibited from disembarking onto dry land. An estimated 400,000 workers have been left immobilised abroad, separated from their families and deadlocked in foreign ports. This not only represents a humanitarian crisis, but threatens to dismantle the smooth running of the global maritime supply chain, which accounts for 90% of all international trade.
The Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change is spearheading a global call to action to urgently end the ongoing crisis. Vortexa has joined over 600 industry and human rights leaders in signing the Neptune Declaration; urging the immediate implementation of four key action points that both safeguard the wellbeing of seafarers and protect the maritime ecosystem from collapse:
1. Recognise seafarers as key workers and give them priority access to COVID-19 vaccines.
2. Establish and implement gold standard health protocols based on existing best practice.
3. Increase collaboration between ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes.
4. Ensure air connectivity between key maritime hubs for seafarers.
International organisations, unions and governments are united in their resolve to have seafarers acknowledged as committed key workers, who have been providing essential services throughout the pandemic that thousands of livelihoods and economies the world over heavily rely on. Signatories of the Neptune Declaration currently include the likes of A.P. Møller - Mærsk, BP, BW, Cargill, COSCO, Euronav, MISC, NYK, Rio Tinto, Shell, Trafigura, Unilever and Vale - but more are being urged to join.
The disparity in support for seagoing versus land-based employees has become a serious concern for the international maritime community. The Neptune Declaration has the capacity to significantly mitigate the hardships of key workers and protect the functionality of crucial waterborne supply chains.