Pandemic deepens the plight of seafarers


Seafarers are the forgotten essential workers.

“We enjoy the goods and services they bring us all our waking hours, but we do not know what some suffer for us to do so,”  said Father Jeffrey Drane, writing in the Marist Messenger.

“A tough life is precisely the way it is for the 1.6 million seafarers globally,” he says.

Drane is the national director of Stella Maris, The Apostleship of the Sea.

He says the recent pandemic and its significant fallouts on the world trade and logistics served to accelerate what had already begun within the industry from the slow economic recession.

“Most noticeable this last year has been the increased exploitation and abuse of seafarers in the expanding cruise industry.”

The large numbers involved make detection more difficult.

“But we did notice feeble interest by ownership and port authorities in providing seafarers Wi-Fi access to families or granting shore leave, and in allowing adequate rest or safer workplaces,” Dane said.

“Pushing hours of work at minimal cost to maximise profit is the age-old problem of being part of a workforce like this.

As well, there is no one particular set of laws or standards and policing is a real problem when ships are outside territorial waters.

Drane said even though it is slightly easier for Stella Maris volunteers to advocate against illegal employment practices, it is much harder to detect neglect of seafarer wellbeing.

Detection is especially tricky with mental health, workplace conflict or disregard for human dignity when in stressful conditions at sea.

Health and safety failures are far from reducing significantly despite the mandates behind international laws or reduction in the actual numbers of seafarers and fishers due to automation.

This Sunday, 12 July, is Sea Sunday; a good day to remember all seafarers and to offer them our support.

Click here to donate to Apostleship of the Sea


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News category: New Zealand.

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