Some of the estimated 1,000 seafarers trapped in Ukraine have escaped, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and industry officials told Reuters while voicing concerns for those who remained trapped on vessels or unaccounted for. Per StreetInsider, several foreign cargo vessels have remained struck by crossfire in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24 and the UN agencies have reportedly sought urgent action to protect 1,000 seafarers, including in Mariupol that has been under extreme bombardment for several weeks.
About 100 vessels have been stopped from departing owing to risks of drifting sea mines. The seafarers’ section coordinator associated with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), Fabrizio Barcellona, mentioned that the “vast bulk” of seafarers, from almost 20 countries, including Turkey, India, Syria, the Philippines, Egypt, Bangladesh, Ukraine, and Russia, had left, traveling to Romania and Poland.
He cited the information provided by the Philippine government that stated that seafarers of the Philippines had departed. The Philippine Labour Ministry observed that 371 of those were repatriated, 68 were able to resume their work outside Ukraine, while only 15 remained there.
An ILO spokesperson mentioned in an email that some seafarers continued to be trapped on their vessels, within earshot of shellfire, without sharing more details. Others had been disembarked, including some of those who had been repatriated home, while others were being protected by the army of Ukraine.
Russia mentioned on Wednesday that it had taken control of the trading port in Mariupol and had rescued what is referred to as “hostages” from vessels.
On 11 April, Dominica Dominica maritime authorities had sent out a letter to International Maritime Organization members about the ship that had reportedly sunk in Mariupol, saying the crew members were hiding on other vessels under immense fear and distress.
Barcellona said that the ITF that represents 200 seafarers’ unions had been seeking to establish “blue corridors”, or safe passage routes. However, this became impossible due to floating mines.
The International Committee of the Red Cross urged the parties to the conflict to allow civilians, including commercial crews, to leave. It said that it would take the issue up with the authorities.