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The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vital role seafarers play in the global economy, however, measures to stop the spread of the pandemic have 150,000 stranded on their vessels as their contracts come to an end unable to return home to their families.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). ICS and ITF have called on seafarers across the world to sound their ships’ horns when in port at 12.00 noon local time on International Workers’ Day on 1 May 2020.


Kostas Gkonis, secretary general of Intercargo called on the sector to support the #HeroesAtSeaShoutOut campaign.

“Seafarers must not be forgotten in these extraordinary times,” said Dimitris Fafalios, chairman of Intercargo. “The issue of crew change must be at the top of the industry’s agenda. Seafarers are amongst the world’s key workers, vital to the global transportation chain.

In the global hub port of Singapore horns could be heard blaring out across the harbour at 12 noon on 1 May.


Quah Ley Hoon, chief executive of the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore, said, “Singapore is grateful to every member of our maritime workforce for their tireless contributions over the years in building Singapore into a global hub port and an international maritime centre. In these challenging times, we wish to show our appreciation to maritime personnel, especially seafarers, and stand in solidarity to ensure that global trade and supply lines stay resilient to support pandemic response around the world.”

In the Middle East Abu Dhabi Ports has seen its “Horns of Hope” initiative which calls on all ships in harbours around the world to sound their horns in 15-second bursts each evening, in recognition of the efforts of maritime, healthcare, and critical sector personnel gather pace both in the region and beyond.

As well as ports across the Middle East the Port of Antwerp, Rotterdam, Vauban, Monaco, and Barcelona, and in Germany have joined the initiative.

H.E. Dr. Abdullah Al Nuaimi, Minister of Infrastructure Development and Chairman of the Federal Transport Authority – Land & Maritime (FTA), said: “The Horns of Hope initiative has given people across the region and around the world daily affirmation that all communities are standing together to overcome the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The persistence and dedication of frontline workers inspires all of us to fight, each on his own front.  Even as life as we know it has been brought to a halt by the pandemic, the courage and exemplary commitment of medical teams, port workers, police forces, and countless other essential workers has meant that food, medical care, and all other necessities are still widely available to us. 

“For this reason, we will continue to sound the horns each evening in honour of their sacrifice, thank the world’s ports that have joined our effort, and welcome more ports to join us.”


From the insurance sector Capt Yves Vandenborn, director of Loss Prevention at The Standard Club highlighted the issues of stress and mental health for seafarers during these trying times.

“Seafarers are not exempted from ever increasing challenges at a time when the world is reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Seafarers are struggling with limited communication with their families, extended contracts at sea, difficulties in obtaining essential medication and many other issues, creating increased stress and risk of mental health complications.

“Despite such trying circumstances, those on board must continue working in order to keep the world supplied with essentials such as food, medical supplies and goods. Fortunately, many international industry bodies such as Mission to Seafarers, ISWAN, and Sailors’ Society have recognised this and are stepping up with initiatives that support seafarers in distress. Here at The Standard Club, we are also prepared to assist our members and their seafarers in any way possible. The work seafarers do is important, and it is time for the world to include them in the international response.”

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