“The Day of the Seafarer is when we take stock and appreciate the hard-working, professional and frequently heroic souls that make world trade possible. We owe them so much, especially now during this awful pandemic. But this year the Day is clouded with sadness and frustration.
“Today [25 June] tens of thousands of hard-working seafarers are in a state of constant anxiety that threatens their mental health and general wellness. This awful state of affairs was, of course, caused by coronavirus lockdowns that have seen so many confined to ships indefinitely, and long beyond their legal contracts. But the situation has been exacerbated and prolonged by the inaction of politicians and cruelties of bureaucracy which are preventing crew changeovers so seafarers can return home to their worried families.
“We keep hearing seafarers are key, essential workers. So it is difficult to understand why, even as they deliver the products we need to survive the current crisis, seafarers are being denied basic human rights.
“At present, to all intents and purposes, they are enslaved to global trade. By denying them freedom of movement, seafarers are imprisoned in their place of work.
“The shipping industry has done everything in its power to bang the drum loud and hard about their plight but progress is proving painfully slow.
“We need crew source countries to help us help their citizens. We need a systematic approach to crew changeovers, not ad hoc sticking plasters. We need airports opened up, and aircraft landing slots and clearances granted with far more urgency. We need visas to be fast-tracked. And, more than anything, we need politicians and civil servants to help us cut through the red tape.
“Today, the Day of the Seafarer, is not a day to for empty words about the bravery and commitment of our seafarers, much as we admire and appreciate both. Today is the day when shipping needs help from our political leaders so that we can help our seafarers. Because enough really is enough.”
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