This was not the fault of the shipping industry, he told Seatrade Maritime News, but of governments, national regulators and port authorities which had all failed to recognise the key role played by seagoing personnel in keeping the world’s essential supply chains in operation.
“Seafarers are making sure that global supply chains are still working … from producers to consumers,” he said. “They are carrying essential cargoes including medicines and pharmaceutical equipment. Everyone recognises that doctors and nurses are key workers, amongst others. We need to take immediate action to recognise seafarers as key workers too.”
His comments come as a litany of harrowing stories reveals the misery that many thousands of seafarers are suffering. Many are long overdue for leave to go home to their families, prevented from signing-off by local regulations and the complex logistics of international travel. Others, retained on a ‘board-and-lodging’ basis, have been prevented from sending their usual desperately needed remittances home to loved ones, according to reports.
Ørbeck-Nilssen forthright comments echo those of many in the industry and representative bodies have been working hard to secure a solution to the issue. He spoke highly of the efforts by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and said they had done a great deal to highlight the problem but that there were still many thousands of seafarers who were not being treated fairly.
Last month the shipping industry and unions laid out a 12-point plan for governments to ease the lockdown on seafarers The plan issued by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), provides a roadmap by which governments can facilitate ship crew changes during the pandemic.
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