An estimated 300,000 cargo ship workers are currently trapped at sea by the coronavirus pandemic, and many are speaking out about the grinding monotony and possible accidents.
Goods continue to be shipped from port to port, but many seafarers themselves haven’t been on land for months due to border closures and regulations.
Seafarers have reported having to shave their heads when their ship ran out of shampoo, while one captain had to pull teeth from two crew members despite having no dental training.
Even as countries begin to open up their borders, there are immense logistical difficulties in organizing a crew change, shipping giant Maersk told Business Insider.
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Cargo ship workers are warning of a looming disaster as some 300,000 people are effectively trapped at sea in the coronavirus pandemic.
Multiple sources told Business Insider about conditions onboard, where some workers have not been on land for more than a year.
Seafarers spoke of mounting suicidal thoughts, and described a “ticking time bomb” for potential accidents, in a report published in June by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).
The federation is a group of trade unions, whose members represent around 30% of the global seafaring workforce.
As countries closed their borders during the pandemic, thousands of workers — who transport 90% of the world’s goods — were forced to work or remain on board long beyond their contracts, which usually run for four to six months.
Even as many countries reopen, shipping firms are struggling to arrange for new crew, which means everybody has to stay on board.
The situation means some of the industry is breaching the international Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), according to the ITF. The agreement says that seafarers cannot be made to work without shore leave for longer than eleven months.
In June more than a dozen countries recognized seafarers as essential workers, which was meant to ease the bureaucratic hurdles to getting them home, or at least on shore. But in a statement on July 16, the ITF said many governments were still not doing “nearly enough.”
Workers were reluctant to speak to Business Insider even anonymously for fear of reprisal from their employers.
However, two organizations — the ITF and The Mission to Seafarers, a Christian charity — are in direct contact with seafarers and have produced reports based on their experiences. The seafarers were anonymized by the organizations.
The workers keeping the world turning
On land, it seemed like the world ground to a halt during lockdown.
But the oil for energy, the food on supermarket shelves, the goods for Amazon orders, and medical supplies for hospitals all kept coming — because of cargo ship workers who mostly had no choice but to go on.
“Crews are reading of empty supermarket shelves and panic buying and are proud that they are doing everything they can to help keep society supplied with essential goods,” read the introduction to the Seafarers’ Happiness Index for Q1 2020, produced by the Mission to Seafarers. That was at the …read more
Source:: Business Insider