Seafarers have been stuck on ships or without work for months

ABC News

COVID travel restrictions may help slow the virus’s transmission, but seafarers are suffering, Pope Francis notes.

He has been offering his prayers and solidarity to those who work at sea and have been prevented from going ashore or have not been able to work.

In a video message last month Francis gave a special message to seafarers and people who fish for a living.

He said: “in these past months, your lives and your work have seen significant changes; you have had to make, and are continuing to make, many sacrifices.

“Long periods spent aboard ships without being able to disembark, separation from families, friends and native countries, fear of infection — all these things are a heavy burden to bear, now more than ever.”

Francis’s prayers and concerns are similar to those of Antonio Guterres, who is the secretary-general of the United Nations.

Last month he issued an appeal asking governments to classify seafarers as “essential workers”. This way, those blocked on ships in port could go ashore and new crews could rotate in to keep the sea shipping industry going.

“The ongoing crisis is having a direct impact on the shipping industry, which transports more than 80 percent of traded goods — including vital medical supplies, food and other basic necessities — critical for the COVID-19 response and recovery,” a U.N. statement says.

The COVID-related travel restrictions have affected hundreds of thousands of the world’s two million seafarers. They have been “stranded at sea for months,” Guterres says.

In late April, an International Labor Organization report said 90,000 seafarers were stuck on cruise ships. The ships have had no passengers because of the COVID-19 travel restrictions. Restrictions are so tight that in some ports not even seafarers in need of medical attention were allowed to go to onshore hospitals.

The report also noted that on other ships, shipping companies are forbidding crews from disembarking in case they bring the often-deadly virus on board when they return.

Expressing gratitude to seafarers and fishers for their work, Francis says they are not alone and are not forgotten.

“Your work at sea often keeps you apart from others, but you are close to me in my thoughts and prayers and in those of your chaplains and the volunteers of Stella Maris,” the centers around the world run by the Apostleship of the Sea.

“Today I would like to offer you a message and a prayer of hope, comfort and consolation in the face of whatever hardships you have to endure,” the pope said. “I would also offer a word of encouragement to all those who work with you in providing pastoral care for maritime personnel.”

“May the Lord bless each of you, your work and your families,” the pope said, “and may the Virgin Mary, Star of the Sea, protect you always.”



Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , ,