In the last week, Human Rights at Sea has received multiple messages from seafarers requesting urgent assistance as the crew change crisis and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to bite deep in the 1.6-1.7 million strong seafarer community. Such messages are just a snapshot of the issues being raised, mostly behind the industry scenes, and often with minimal public profiling.
Increasingly, this is highlighting a wider and more insidious issue of the assessed deliberate suppression of the scale and detail of reporting and therefore, access to justice for seafarers.
Examples (text as received):
“I am master of M/V Samed flying Panama flag in Persian Gulf, no salary and no provision for 3 months. We are total 15 crew onboard. during this time I got sick and I need to leave the ship asap for treatment. all crew’s mental health is very bad. Owner of the ship doesn’t care our situation at all. our ship is at anchor for long, no voyage and we stuck here. please hear us and rescue us from this hell.”
“Hello, Please to tell me if is legal human right on board of commercial vessel, to buy myself food I want to have daily. I am working with temporary contract, agree ITF rules. Master explained me, is not possible by policy of company, need to eat food, allowance provide by owner-4$/day!!!
I think this masters are idiots!! In prison, 2 century ago, master provided food to slaves. What is your opinion official? How can I obtain this elementary human right?”
“Good day, One of our crew members has been denied medical care in King Abdullah Port Saoedi-Arabië and Salalah Oman. His basic human rights are violated by this.
My company says they are doing all they can, but I doubt if the have informed the Indian Embassies or want to bring it to a political level.
As ship we can’t change anything on this worldwide problem that has been going on since the pandemic started last year. Other organizations as IMO, ILO and ITF have not reached any progress with their statements and strong letters.”
As the pandemic continues, the degree and detail of frontline reporting from seafarers appears muted at best and suppressed at worst. Under the various guises of data protection, privacy, ‘behind the scene negotiations’ and corporate veils, often controlled by instructed reputation management organisations, the frontline stories of victims and their families are minimally exposed and it appears, poorly told to the public at large.
If States’ policies and legislation are to positively change in support of institutional and generational change towards workers at sea, then full transparency must rapidly become the shipping industry focus, not deliberate manipulation of the narrative just for positive news stories, thereby ignoring the pleas of victims.
This issue was first raised by HRAS in an editorial long-read blog published on 29 March 2020, titled: “COVID-19: Fact Suppression or Careless Under-reporting of Seafarer’s Struggles?”