Maersk has called on governments to engage with the shipping industry and to find solutions to the crewing crisis, caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The coronavirus outbreak has forced seafarers around the world to remain a on board ships for very long periods, which has caused increasing fatigue and mental health issues.
"Many of our seafarers are serving well above their normal contract length and still have no line of sight on when they can return home," pointed out Palle Laursen, chief technical officer fleet management & technology at AP Møller – Maersk.
The Danish carrier has recognised that the flow of supplies, especially food and medicine, is very crucial at this time and highlighted that "the seafarers have been sailing non-stop" keeping economies and supply chains stable.
Laursen said, "crew changes cannot be postponed indefinitely" and urged authorities to join in with a constructive dialogue in order to find the best way for new crews to be repatriated and for other crew replace exhausted seafarers.
The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) has decided no to comment further following the union’s decision on 15 June to give assistance to crew wishing to return home from their vessels.
That decision was dismissed as, “irresponsible and short-sighted” by one of the most unlikely sources, Human Rights At Sea (HRAS), a charity founded to protect seafarers.
HRAS posted on its website on 16 June its reasoning, saying that seafarers, “will be actively supported to effectively leave their roles, stop working and thereby disrupt global supply lanes in protest at contract extensions during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis has been received with disbelief, alienating the unions at a time in humanity’s history when global unity and stability is most needed.”
The HRAS position was roundly criticised on social media and today’s announcement by Maersk reveals that the lines understand the critical nature of their employee’s situation, as expressed by the secretary general of the International Maritime Organization, Kitack Lim, also on 16 June.
Container News asked Maersk to comment on the HRAS view of the ITF’s actions, but there had been no response from Maersk at the time of publishing.
After Container News published its story HRAS retracted its press statement from 16 June and released a statement saying, "Human Rights supports any action that is a genuine attempt to help seafarers wherever they are."
Antonis Karamalegkos Nick Savvides
Editor Managing Editor