Seafarers are the backbone of shipping, which plays a pivotal role in the global economy. Despite being critical to the ongoing function of international trade, this group of keyworkers are often overlooked. During the COVID-19 pandemic, seafarers endured ever-changing travel restrictions and uncertainty spurred by new variants. In order to ensure the sustainability of shipping, the people behind these operations must be supported, protected and respected.
The theme for Day of the Seafarer 2022 is ‘Your voyage – then and now, share your journey,’ which offers seafarers a platform through which their stories can be heard. In the spirit of this theme, we asked Ardmore seafarers to share some of their experience of the pandemic, and their hopes for the future.
Captain Gainuse, currently onboard the Ardmore Cherokee, describes how he and his crew were affected: “The lack of socialization due to distancing measures was one of the most challenging aspects of this period of my career,” he says. “There was an ever-present concern about how to keep everyone – from crew mates onboard, to family back home – safe. While at sea, without full access to all news sources, it was also difficult to differentiate between real and false information, especially on social media platforms.
“That said, the love I have for my profession stood strong throughout, and I’m proud of how my crew and I navigated the challenges we faced. By educating ourselves on the realities of the pandemic, and learning as much as we could about vaccinations, we were able to dispel disinformation onboard and unite as a team against the virus and the complications it brought into our lives. I’m also incredibly grateful to both Ardmore and Thome Group for the support provided over the last two years.”
Captain Uday of the Ardmore Engineer recounts his experience: “At the start of the pandemic there was a surreal sense of unease – walking through empty airports to start, and then dealing with the various restrictions that followed. Once I was onboard the reality really hit, knowing that I couldn’t step back onto land, and wasn’t sure when I’d next be able to do so. Despite how difficult this time was, one positive outcome of the pandemic is that the world was reminded of the importance of those working at sea, and how these individuals make a real contribution to every person’s life.
“As we move forward post-pandemic, I have a new love for my profession, and look forward to engaging in effective teamwork with my crew to ensure continued success of our voyages.”
Recognizing the importance of protecting its crew, Ardmore has taken a number of steps to preserve and encourage the wellbeing of crew members since the start of the pandemic, including efforts to alleviate crew change issues. This included the rollout of a comprehensive vaccination programme that resulted in 100% of Anglo Eastern and 98% of Thome Group crew members being fully vaccinated.
Ardmore was also part of the group of companies and seafarer charities that co-founded the Seafarers International Relief Fund (SIRF) in May 2021 – an initiative that raised over US$1 million to provide vital relief for seafarers and their families affected by COVID. The fund is now being repurposed to support Ukrainian and Russian seafarers impacted by the conflict and is gaining further momentum.
Commenting on the insights from the Captains, Mark Cameron, COO of Ardmore Shipping, said: “As an industry, we have a shared responsibility to build respect from the man in the street for the work these men and women do, and to learn to care about seafarers around the world by amplifying their voices and taking collaborative action. As we recover from the pandemic, it’s important that the industry remains united in purpose, addressing the ongoing issues faced by these keyworkers. A prime example of this would be the position in which many seafarers currently find themselves, in light of the Ukraine crisis. SIRF has been repurposed in support of this cause, and we encourage all members of the industry to find ways to contribute to aid of these individuals as the situation continues to unfold. We hope to see increased visibility of seafarers within society at large. It is more important than ever before that we find ways to connect with our crew and give the seafarers voice a platform to be heard.”
Learn more about how the Seafarers International Relief Fund is supporting of the seafarers and their families impacted by the Ukraine crisis, here: https://www.theseafarerscharity.org/seafarers-international-relief-fund/home